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Thursday, November 4,2010

Blown up

Details of a confidential informant, 228 pounds of marijuana and a wrestling superstar emerge from the arrest of a local medical marijuana spiritual leader

by Andy Balaskovitz

 

At an arraignment in 55th District Court in Mason Friday morning, Judge Donald Allen Jr. led the handful of people in the courtroom through the criminal past of the Rev. Fredrick Wayne Dagit. Between 1969 and 1993 he had convictions for rape, kidnapping, burglary, “flights to avoid prosecution,” cannabis possession and conspiracy to distribute cocaine between Arizona, Illinois and Florida.

Dagit did not deny the past crimes. That combined with five drug charges stemming from last Wednesday’s raid by the Tri-County Metro Narcotics Squad of Dagit’s home in Okemos and his Greenleaf Smoking Club, a medical marijuana compassionate care club in Williamstown Township, caused Allen to set his bail at $500,000.


Police seized 154 pounds of marijuana from Dagit's home, plus 40 marijuana plants, and 74 pounds from Greenleaf, according to testimony given in a warrant validation hearing held last Thursday by Ingham County Sheriff's Deputy Robert Block.


Block testified that the narcotics squad did a "reimburse marijuana deal" with Dagit. Block testified that a confidential informant delivered the marijuana to Dagit.


"Dagit was only to purchase 50 of the pounds of marijuana and possibly more later," Block testified. "He was going to hold onto it for (the CI) till later down the road. They then arranged to travel to 530 East Grand River (the address of the smoking club) where they delivered the other 74 pounds. And at 530 East Grand River the CI met with Dagit, delivered the 74 pounds of marijuana. Dagit gave him $10,000 in cash. They had arrranged that they had a little over $49,000 (that) would remain that he owed him at a later date."


The charges against Dagit include possession or manufacture of 100 or more pounds of marijuana, manufacture of more than 20 but less than 200 marijuana plants, possession or manufacture of less than 100 pounds of marijuana, maintaining a drug house and possession of marijuana. The charges could put him in prison for more than 20 years.


Dagit says he cannot afford an attorney. Plus, he maintains that he is innocent.


“I have no money. I am a pawn,” Dagit told the court Friday.


Though Dagit remains in jail, Greenleaf was open for business on Tuesday. A woman who answered the phone would not say who was running it. State police Detective First Lieutenant Timothy Gill, who is a section commander for Tri-County, said that the raid was not targeting the compassionate care club, or medical marijuana users.


“This wasn’t an effort at closing this club or a swat at any medical marijuana patients, caregivers or advocates — this was an investigation dealing solely with a violation of our Michigan law,” he said. Gill noted that the only time the club was shut down was when police were searching it.


But the club is just the tip of a smoky story that’s emerging after the Tri-County Metro Narcotics Squad’s raid. The squad allegedly seized 228 pounds of marijuana, but left 120 marijuana plants, believing those to be legal under the Michigan medical marijuana law. Dagit was the only person arrested in the raid, where witnesses say officers barged into the club with guns drawn.


There is the fact that the Greenleaf Smokers’ Club is located in a building owned by Andy Simmons, a former Michigan State University wrestling star. Simmons would not comment, but there is no indication so far that he was a target. Gill declined to comment when asked if more arrests were coming, but did confirm that no one else was arrested last week in connection with the raid.


Then there’s “Matt,” who Fredrick Dagit's son said walked into his father's life in the weeks leading up to the raid, promising to increase the number of patients coming into the club, and claiming the ability to lay hands on a large amount of marijuana very quickly — seemingly, the confidential informant Block refers to.


Mike Dagit is hoping that his father’s case will act as a test of Michigan’s almost 2-yearold medical marijuana law, whose vagueness municipalities and law enforcement agencies have been struggling with.


“I can’t even get out of jail,” Frederick Dagit said in court. “I have no money, period. In fact, that is what I do not understand. I was just a minister there at the business. I have no idea of the bookwork. I don’t know how much money was there, I don’t know anything.”


But Mike Dagit says he knows. Three weeks ago, the 42-year old construction project manager from Florida was in Michigan reviewing his father’s business operations. He studied the paperwork of Greenleaf Smokers Club to make sure that the number of patients and caregivers was legal, the amount of plants and usable product was legal and that non-patients were not allowed in the club.


“My dad does not have the money for 100 pounds of marijuana. He didn’t even have the money to pay for me to visit from Florida.


(From various news reports from across the country, the estimated street value of 100 pounds of marijuana is around $500,000. However, dealers can buy illicit drugs at a discounted wholesale price.)


“This caught everybody completely offguard,” said Mike Dagit, referring to the patients and building owner Simmons. Simmons owns the Tool Shed, an equipment rental business in the same building as Greenleaf. “I saw everything he was doing, and it was 100 percent legal.”


When contacted by phone, Simmons refused to comment on the raid or the smoking club, which is under the umbrella of the Church for Compassionate Care (CFCC) Ministries, operated by Dagit. When CFCC Ministries paid to place two advertisements in the City Pulse, it was on a $283 Tool Shed check signed by Simmons. Simmons, 26, achieved 100 wins during his five years at MSU, a top five ranking in the school’s history. He has an older brother, Nick, who was also a wrestling star at MSU.


Mike Dagit said he even considered moving up to Michigan to become a caregiver and join the business. On Saturday, he posted a request for donations on the Lansing State Journal website to help pay for bail and to hire an attorney for his father. He believes this can be a test case for the law — if he can pay for a high-profile attorney.


“We want to make this a high enough profile case,” he said. “I hope someone will come to bat for him.”


But after Mike Dagit went back to Florida, his father told him about his new friend he had met, “Matt.” Fredrick Dagit met Matt at Greenleaf University, also one of Dagit’s businesses. Frederick Dagit told his son that Matt was interested in becoming partners and claimed he could bring in more patients, expand the operation and bring in large quantities of marijuana quickly.


“I said right away ‘don’t get too friendly with him and don’t accept any offers,’” Dagit’s son said. “Just keep it legal.”


In the week leading up to the raid, Mike stayed in contact with his father. There were plans for Matt to move in with Dagit.


“All of a sudden, (Matt) just disappeared. My dad called me concerned about him,” Mike said. If it is true his father agreed to have 100 pounds dropped off from Matt, he had no idea how he would pay for it.


Mike Dagit suggests
this is a case of an informant infiltrating his father. He questions
how money for 100 pounds of marijuana could be bought under the nose of
business partners and investors.


Attorney Robert Baldori
says that if Dagit hopes to take his case to trial, he would likely
need an expensive lawyer to determine the legitimacy of the original
search warrant.


Given the charges,
criminal history and Dagit's lack of money, Baldori does not think this
will turn out to be a model case for the state cannabis law.


“I wouldn’t pick this
guy for the cause,” said Baldori, who has experience in drug forfeiture
cases since the 1980s and is an advocate for marijuana legalization.


Though Dagit’s past
might cause a judge to consider him a risk, Dagit has said he has
turned a new leaf. In prison for burglary in the 1990s he found God. He
found marijuana’s effects on his pain better than opiates.


He was ordained in 2003
by the online Universal Life Church. In 2010, he started renting
property to combine cannabis and religion. On Sundays, he held
sermons and served free food. Monday through Saturday he oversaw the
club, which allowed patients a safe place to use medical marijuana.


Dagit’s club, though,
is quite an amalgam. It offers weddings and family counseling services.
There is also Greenleaf University, which advertises that it would
teach students to, “Join the fastest growing industry as a certified
caregiver.”


A side note to the
raid: Dagit’s business also is in violation of a Williamstown Township
zoning ordinance, says Supervisor Mickey Martin.


“When they first moved
in, they did not apply for the proper permit. They are not responding
in any way except through legal counsel,” she said.


Williamstown Township
requires a special use permit to operate a church, school or social
club, Martin said. Martin’s primary interest in Dagit lies in the
zoning ordinance, but she has talked with investigators involved with
the raid.


“They are very tight-lipped on it,” she said.



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