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The multi-year effort to break up this group has netted 74 indictments, 2,600 illegal pot plants and 4,000 pounds of marijuana
9News

Two CSU alumni who also played for the Denver Broncos have been named as two of the victims of an alleged securities fraud scheme run by an illegal marijuana ring. 

Erik Pears, Joel Dreessen and other investors believed they were investing in legitimate, state-licensed marijuana businesses. However, their investments were allegedly used to fund an illegal marijuana cultivation and distribution operation, court documents show. 

For nearly four years, members of the alleged drug trafficking ring presented themselves as legitimate medical marijuana caregivers, consultants and small business owners to investors — including Pears and Dreessen, according to the Attorney General’s office in a Wednesday release.

The 74 defendants in the case are charged with 31 felony counts and are alleged to have trafficked thousands of pounds of marijuana out of state, and engaged in securities fraud, money laundering, tax evasion and mortgage fraud, among other crimes, according to court documents. 

“This case is a prime example that the black market for marijuana has not gone away since recreational marijuana was legalized in our state, and in fact continues to flourish,” Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said in a statement. 

“Operation Toker Poker” — the multiyear effort to break up the group — resulted in the indictments, 2,600 illegal pot plants and 4,000 pounds of marijuana — barely scratching the surface of what has been produced by the organization, Coffman said.

The enterprise produced more than 100 pounds of marijuana per month on average, easily exceeding $200,000 per month in revenue from January 2012 to spring 2016, the Attorney General’s office said.

“Mr. Dreessen was an innocent lender to a business that he was told was both lawful and properly licensed,” Dreessen’s lawyer Steve Peters said in a statement to 9News. “Joel has been repaid all funds he provided and is glad to have this matter behind him.” 

Pears, an offensive tackle, was last with the Broncos in 2008, and played college football at Colorado State University. Dreessen, also a CSU alumnus, was released by the Broncos in 2014 after a failed physical. 

The Coloradoan’s partners at 9News contributed to this report.

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