Armored car company back in business after resolving lawsuit with San Bernardino County sheriff – San Bernardino Sun

An armored car company will resume services in San Bernardino County after resolving a federal lawsuit that accused sheriff’s deputies of illegally seizing $1.1 million in medical marijuana proceeds from two of its vehicles last year.

Last month, Pennsylvania-based Empyreal Logistics dismissed the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration from the lawsuit after the government agreed to return all of the confiscated cash. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department also has dropped its legal claims to the money.

“The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and executives from Empyreal Enterprises, LLC recently engaged in meaningful conversations regarding the circumstances of traffic stops that led to Empyreal’s recent litigation,” the department said in a statement Friday.

“Both parties understand that each were acting in good faith when the stops were conducted and have come to an understanding that will enable both sides to move forward amicably. Both sides also acknowledge that Empyreal is part of the solution to help with financial transparency and that San Bernardino deputies are not highway robbers as previously reported in the media.”

The Sheriff’s Department said its Narcotics Division will continue to fight illegal marijuana growing operations and related criminal enterprises.

Empyreal Chief Executive Officer Deirdra O’Gorman said she is pleased the dispute involving the seizures has been resolved.

“Empyreal, our financial institution clients, and their state-licensed cannabis customers operate within the law, which is why we chose to bring a legal challenge to the seizures in San Bernardino County,” she said in a statement. “Now that the funds have been returned and after meeting with the sheriff, we are confident that we can continue serving state-legal businesses without future disruptions.”

San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon D. Dicus previously described Empyreal’s lawsuit as a “special-interest crusade” and a blatant attempt to “interfere with ongoing local criminal investigations,” but did not provide specific details.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department leads the Inland Regional Narcotics Enforcement Team, which also includes state and federal agencies such as the DEA and FBI,

Through the U.S. Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program, the Sheriff’s Department’s participation in IRNET enables it to receive up to 80% of the proceeds recovered from civil forfeitures. It would have collected about $800,000 if the Empyreal seizure had succeeded.

The Sheriff’s Department received about $1.7 million in equitable sharing funds in 2021, according to the Department of Justice. The funds were used

Though both medicinal and recreational marijuana are legal in California, the federal government classifies all marijuana, along with heroin and cocaine, as an illegal Schedule I drug with a high potential for abuse and little or no medical benefits. As a result, individuals could be charged with a federal crime for activities that are legal under state law.

Empyreal’s lawsuit alleged that on Nov. 16, 2021, San Bernardino County sheriff’s Deputy Jonathan Franco conducted a traffic stop of a company driver for allegedly driving too close to a semi-truck on the freeway.

A search warrant shows that the Sheriff’s Department claims it was entitled to seize $700,000 in cash from the vehicle because there was probable cause to believe a felony had been committed.

The same group of deputies, purportedly including Franco, seized $350,000 from another Empyreal vehicle on Dec. 9 without obtaining a search warrant, the suit alleged.

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