An L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputy and his two accomplices will appear in federal court on Friday facing charges for armed robbery and conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. All three are currently behind bars awaiting trial. But the charges don’t begin to tell the story of how the robbery went down. Posing as a narcotics investigator executing a search warrant at a downtown L.A. cannabis warehouse, Deputy Mark Antrim and his accomplices pulled off a heist that netted them more than $1 million in cannabis and cash. In fact, it took LAPD officers days to discover the robbery, which they might not have at all had an attorney for the warehouse not contacted the L.A. Sheriff’s Department.
DOJ Says Police Took Their Time Robbing a California Cannabis Warehouse
In the early morning hours of October 29, Deputy Mark Antrim, along with Eric Rodriguez and Kevin McBride, arrived at an L.A. marijuana warehouse in an unmarked Ford Explorer. The license plate on the vehicle identified it as belonging to the sheriff’s Temple City Station. The trio all wore sheriff’s department patches and told warehouse workers they were serving a search warrant.
Decked out in police duty belts, with holstered handguns and carrying long-rifles, Antrim, Rodriguez and McBride proceeded to detain three employees and two security guards in the back seat of the Ford Explorer, according to a written statement from the DOJ. With workers and guards detained in the vehicle, Antrim and his crew proceeded to load the warehouse’s wares, pound packages of cannabis and bundles of cash, into a large rental truck.
Police on Scene Fooled By Fake Narcotics Investigator
The robbery was in progress for nearly two hours before LAPD police officers—not connected with the robbery—arrived on the scene. One of the employees detained during the fake raid managed to call police using a cell phone. When police arrived in response to the call, Antrim’s accomplices fled the scene. Antrim stayed behind. And although he was neither a narcotics officer nor executing a real search warrant, Antrim managed to convince the officers that the “raid” was legitimate. As a result, the officers who arrived in response to the employee’s call left the scene. They interviewed Antrim for all of 15 minutes.
Even more incredibly, after the LAPD officers left the scene, Antrim continued with the robbery. He called his accomplices, who returned to the scene and continued to help load cannabis, warehouse safes, and cash boxes into the truck. It would take several days and a call to the Sheriff’s department from an attorney representing the warehouse for investigators to discover that Antrim had actually robbed the place, not executed a search warrant.
When federal agents searched Antrim’s residence, they found more than $300,000 in cash and firearms. Agents also found several pounds of cannabis in McBride’s residence. All told, the DOJ says the Deputy and his accomplices made off with 600 pounds of cannabis and $100,000 in cash.
Fake Police Raid Highlights Real Risks of the Cannabis Industry’s Banking Problems
The Los Angeles Sheriff’s department says it is taking the criminal action of one of its deputies seriously. The department is currently cooperating with the federal investigation. In a statement, an Assistant Director with the FBI’s L.A. field office described Antrim’s conduct as “an egregious level of corruption that posed a safety risk to victims and fellow police officers.”
This is absolutely true. And the risks could have been mitigated if the legal cannabis industry in California did not have to handle large amounts of cash. The federal prohibition on cannabis has made basic banking services scarce for cannabis companies. And the result is that many are forced to accept the risks of having large amounts of cash on hand. This creates incentive for criminal actors to target vulnerable facilities.