GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Police say a Grand Rapids doctor certified patients to use medical marijuana without providing a physical examination, reviewing patients’ medical records and often without meeting the patient at all.
The allegations against Dr. Gregory Kuldanek and others are contained in search warrant affidavits recently unsealed in U.S. District Court in an investigation into accusations of marijuana growing and drug trafficking.
The defendants contend they complied with the state’s medical marijuana law.
Attorneys have asked a judge to toss evidence obtained during what they considered illegal searches of homes in the Grand Rapids area. The attorney who filed the initial motion to suppress evidence thinks the government retaliated by trying to have his client locked up pending trial.
Kuldanek, of East Paris Internal Medicine, is accused with nine others of conspiring to manufacture 100 or more marijuana plants. He is also indicted on a charge of maintaining drug-involved premises.
“Kuldanek facilitates the recruitment of nominee patients by using his Michigan Physician License to certify that people recruited by other members of the (drug-trafficking organization) as ‘patients’ qualify for a marijuana card by reason of a serious debilitating medical condition …,” wrote Patrick Frederick, a Kent County sheriff’s deputy assigned as a task force officer for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
“It is apparent by the same dates appearing on multiple physician certification forms that Gregory Kuldanek has signed ‘stacks’ or multiples of ‘(Michigan Medical Marijuana Act) Physician Certification’ forms saying he has conducted ‘in-person medical evaluations’ of patients he has never met.”
Defense attorney Kelly Lambert III represents Kuldanek and says Kuldanek has pleaded not guilty to the allegations.
“I think that’s the proper plea for him to make.” Lambert said.
He said that the case is “far more complicated and complex than meets the eye.” If his client played any role, it was “minor,” Lambert said.
Kuldanek is free on $15,000 unsecured bond.
The government obtained the names of 66 patients and caregivers linked to the alleged drug-trafficking organization by issuing a grand jury subpoena to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
Almost all of the patients and caregivers had received medical certification from Kuldanek, police said. The government said the organization recruited “patients” to apply for medical marijuana cards.
Frederick said the DEA and Kent Area Narcotics Enforcement Team have conducted a joint investigation into what he called the Betty Lee Jenkins and Phillip Walsh drug-trafficking organization, or “Jenkins-Walsh DTO.”
In November 2013, police investigated an alleged marijuana-manufacturing operation run by Kathleen Anne Rosengren in the 7000 block of Cascade Road SE. Rosengren told police she provided Jenkins with two large garbage bags of harvested marijuana that Jenkins took to her home in the 2000 block of Forest Hill Avenue SE, the DEA said.
Police used a search warrant at the Forest Hill home. Police found documents that Jenkins owned and paid for utilities at two four-unit apartment buildings in Gaines Township. Police found six more marijuana operations there, agents said in court records.
In all, police seized 467 plants and 18 pounds of processed marijuana from the eight grow operations, the DEA said in court records. The marijuana had an estimated street value of $431,000
Police say the group also grew marijuana in the 13000 block of Seven Mile Road NE in northern Kent County and 1000 block of Alden Nash Road in Lowell Township.
The government is seeking a judgment of $1,293,600, which represents proceeds of the alleged conspiracy, and is seeking forfeiture of properties where marijuana was grown, records show.
Walsh’s attorney, R. Vincent Green, said he did not want to comment before he had the chance to talk to Walsh on Thursday. Green said his client believed he complied with the law.
Attorney J. Nicholas Bostic, representing Jenkins, suggested the government retaliated against his client after he filed a motion to suppress evidence. Jenkins was the only one re-arrested when the government filed a superseding indictment, he said.
“We will argue in Court about whether they re-arrested her and sought her detention in retaliation for her motion,” Bostic wrote in an email to The Grand Rapids Press/MLive.
He wants her statements to police thrown out, too. Police said she discussed the alleged operation.
In a court filing, he said: “The execution of these warrants and the preparation of the required returns was sloppy to say the least and very questionable in more sinister terms. Indeed, the only reason this case was submitted for federal prosecution is because defendant’s conduct was lawful under state law,” Bostic wrote in court documents.
He said his client was in “full compliance” with the state’s medical marijuana law.
“(Police) seized items that were lawfully possessed under state law and exceeded the scope of their authority thereby violating the Fourth Amendment.”
He said police obtained the initial search warrant, for Rosengren’s residence, “armed with nothing but their anonymous information and a claim that (police) smelled marijuana on the porch … .”
Also accused with Jenkins, Walsh, Kuldanek and Rosengren of conspiracy to manufacture 100 or more marijuana plants are Steven Hawkins, Adam Paul Rumpf, Parker Wilcoulter Smith, John Christopher Pacencia, Cynthia Wessley, and Todd Stephen Greene.
John Agar covers crime for MLive/Grand Rapids Press E-mail John Agar: [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ReporterJAgar
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