In 2016, Milton residents Deana Martin and her husband sought bankruptcy protection, writing in court papers that they owed creditors more than $2 million for unpaid taxes, a court judgment, student loans, and other debts.
On Tuesday, federal authorities unsealed a criminal complaint alleging Martin, 51, had an income stream that she failed to report: a $14 million online marijuana delivery business that employed at least 25 workers, maintained a warehouse in Hyde Park, and paid its staff in cash. Martin allegedly earned $80,000 each month.
She was arrested Tuesday and made her first appearance in US District Court in Boston. Martin is charged with conspiracy to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana, federal prosecutors said. Martin didn’t enter a plea, but her attorney, Brad Bailey, said she denies the accusations.
She was released on unsecured bond and surrendered her passport, he said.
Bailey said that his client had expected to be arrested after authorities executed search warrants last summer.
“She’s planning a vigorous and aggressive defense, and as this plays out we’ll have more to say about this,” he said. A probable cause hearing is set for April 16.
Though marijuana is legal in Massachusetts, it is still prohibited under federal law. US Attorney Andrew Lelling has said that his office would continue to prosecute organized crime related to marijuana. Money laundering and the sale of marijuana to minors have been among his biggest priorities for marijuana prosecution, he told the Globe in February.
Federal authorities allege Martin operated the marijuana business, dubbed Northern Herb, from 2015 until last August, when agents searched her home and a warehouse in Hyde Park and seized more than $112,000 from bank accounts associated with the operation.
Special Agent Robert J. Olsen of the Drug Enforcement Administration estimated more than 100 kilograms were stored in the Hyde Park warehouse, where agents also found $40,000, according to a 21-page affidavit he prepared in the case. Another $114,000 was taken from Martin’s home, he wrote.
Authorities allege Martin used the proceeds from Northern Herb to pay more than $300,000 on the mortgage for her seven-bedroom home and purchase a 2017 Porsche Boxster, a luxury vehicle with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of more than $57,000 for the base model.
Olsen highlighted an e-mail allegedly linked to Northern Herb in his affidavit.
“Our busiest days, we sent a variety of products out to as many as 300 customers using 20 drivers and an office staff of 7 people,” he quoted the e-mail as saying. The e-mail, from July 20, 2018, also described measures Northern Herb took “to stay one step ahead of enforcement,” the affidavit said.
The business’s website offered about 18 strains of raw marijuana, pre-rolled cigarettes, liquids, edibles, concentrates, and other products, Olsen wrote.
Northern Herb required $100 minimum orders, and though it claimed to be a medical marijuana provider, investigators concluded the business told customers they didn’t need medical marijuana cards, Olsen’s affidavit said. Martin wasn’t authorized by the state to dispense medical marijuana, Olsen wrote.
An April 2015 e-mail linked to Martin described a business strategy in which Northern Herb’s sales team would be offered incentives depending on much marijuana they sold, the affidavit said.
Authorities allege Northern Herb didn’t withhold or pay taxes on its marijuana sales. In an e-mail referencing cannabis taxes charged by California, Martin allegedly wrote: “Zero taxes is still better,” prosecutors said.
Northern Herb also didn’t remit or pay employment taxes for its workers or provide them with tax documents, federal prosecutors said.
The business’s marijuana supply came from California and Oregon, and some was shipped to post office boxes in Westwood, Chestnut Hill, Readville, and Dedham, Olsen’s affidavit said. Some of the post office boxes were registered by Martin under the business name “I WANT CANDY,” Olsen wrote.
Warehouse workers processed orders from the website, packaged marijuana for delivery, and organized cash from the sales, the affidavit said. Delivery drivers picked up prepackaged marijuana from a warehouse or Martin’s home, made deliveries, and then returned to Martin’s home with cash payments, the affidavit said.
Some deliveries were made to unattended locations, like a shared hallway or front door, where the package could be accessed by a third party, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors allege Martin used bank accounts in another person’s name to conceal her control over Northern Herb’s proceeds and hide the income from US Bankruptcy Court.
In the bankruptcy case, Martin described herself as the owner of a business called Wildflour Events. The case was dismissed last April after Martin and her husband missed deadlines for filing documents and failed to pay some fees, court records show.Felicia Gans of the Globe Staff contributed. Laura Crimaldi can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.