Marijuana grower offers sheriff $1 million bribe

Two marijuana manufacturers were charged Thursday with conspiring to commit bribery, bribery of a public official, conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, and manufacturing marijuana, according to U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert.

On May 17, Chi Meng Yang, 31, met with Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey in Yreka. During the meeting, Yang offered $1 million to the sheriff in exchange for his assistance with an interstate marijuana distribution business that Yang and others were in the process of organizing. Yang explained his role to be that of a representative for several families, himself included, that were currently cultivating marijuana in Siskiyou County.

Shortly after the meeting, the sheriff reported the attempted bribe to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Federal agents asked the sheriff to continue meeting with Yang.

The sheriff contacted Yang and said he was interested in working with the marijuana growers and set up a meeting. The FBI then recorded several meetings.

During those meetings, Yang and his sister Gaosheng Laitinen talked with the sheriff about how he could assist them. Because Yang’s offer of $1 million was contingent on Yang securing and profiting from certain out-of-state marijuana licenses, Yang and Laitinen promised to pay the Sheriff a total of $80,000 if he would exempt eight properties from the Siskiyou County ban against outdoor marijuana grows.

They also sought protection from raids or other law enforcement actions on these eight properties where outdoor marijuana was being grown. In furtherance of this plan, Yang and Laitinen gave the sheriff several initial payments, totaling $10,500 in cash.

Yang was arrested today and is scheduled to make an initial court appearance on September 1 in Sacramento. If convicted of the charges in the complaint, Yang and Laitinen face the following maximum statutory penalties: five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the conspiracy charge; 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the bribery charge; and a minimum of five years and up to 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine for the drug charges.