California

Feds say East Coast lawyer used his Learjet to ship pot, hash oil across the country

Federal prosecutors in Sacramento have charged an East Coast attorney with conspiracy to possess and distribute marijuana and hashish oil, alleging that he used his personal Learjet since last summer to fly the drugs around the country.

Manish Patel, an attorney licensed in New York and New Jersey, is named in a criminal complaint unsealed Thursday morning in federal court and is due to make his initial appearance in court Thursday afternoon.

Patel, who already is in custody on charges filed earlier by El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson, is accused in court documents of flying marijuana and cannabis oil into California and other locales since at least August 2018, using a $345,000 Learjet he purchased mostly with cash.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents first searched Patel’s jet in August 2018 in Albuquerque, N.M., where they seized $80,000 in cash and “evidence indicating large-scale interstate drug trafficking,” court papers say.

Subsequent searches in Northern California led to the seizure of 1,400 pounds of marijuana products and $400,000 in cash, court papers say.

Patel has marijuana arrests in 2005 and 2011 in New Jersey, according to court papers, and was living in what agents describe as his “Granite Bay mansion” when they searched it in May and seized marijuana, hash oil and $389,310 in cash that was vacuum-sealed in stacks.

The Learjet’s pilots told investigators that Patel paid them in cash and “provided specific directions not to allow any search of the Learjet during fuel stops without consulting him,” court papers say.

The criminal complaint also links Patel to an attempt to obtain three cannabis business operating permits in the city of Sacramento.

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