Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Sheriff Baca says state's medical marijuana program has been hijacked by criminals, citing triple slaying

September 1, 2010 |  1:32 pm

Sheriff Lee Baca said Wednesday that the recent triple murder in West Hollywood during an illegal sale of medical marijuana is another example of how the industry has been taken over in part by enterprising criminals.

“The medicinal marijuana program that voters authorized years ago has been hijacked by underground drug dealing criminals who are resorting to violence in order to control their piece of the action,” Baca said.

He said the criminal element has flooded the business because of the outrageous profits to be made. “There are predators armed and seeking easy dollars in sales of marijuana,” Baca said.

Baca said his detectives have found marijuana collectives buying from cartel sources and selling to people in large amounts. In the triple slaying case, two of the dead men did business with at least four dispensaries.

A man charged Wednesday with capital murder in the slayings confessed to the crime during an interview with detectives, investigators said.

Harold Yong Park, 31, told investigators he previously bought and sold marijuana from two of the men and that a dispute erupted when he came to the West Hollywood apartment Thursday evening, where the victims were shot to death.

Sheriff Lt. Pat Nelson said Pirooz Moussazadeh and Bernard Khalili had bought high-grade medical marijuana from local pot dispensaries -- some in L.A. and two in West Hollywood -- and then resold it. In this case, Park had stolen 4 to 5 pounds of high-grade hydroponically grown marijuana after killing the trio.

The third man killed, Shahriar Moussazadeh, was not involved in the drug deal and was a man in the wrong place at the wrong time, Nelson said.

He said Park did not bring enough money to the deal to buy the drugs he wanted. But detectives are not certain when he decided to kill the men. Nelson said Park has a prior drug conviction and worked previously for a marijuana collective.

Park is expected to appear in a Beverly Hills court Wednesday on murder, robbery and burglaries charges. He is being held without bail. He was arrested Monday in Lomita after his license plate that had been entered into a wanted car database was spotted using a sheriff’s patrol car with an automatic license plate reader.

Meanwhile, the campaign to defeat Proposition 19 announced Wednesday that Baca and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) will head up the effort to defeat the marijuana legalization measure on the November ballot.  

-- Richard Winton