Marijuana industry labor organizer indicted
An Oakland labor official working to organize the medical marijuana industry was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday in connection with allegations that he used his position for personal gain according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Daniel Rush, a former union organizer with the United Food and Commercial Workers union, was indicted on charges including taking illegal payments as a union employee, honest services fraud, attempted extortion and money laundering, federal prosecutors said.
Rush, 54, allegedly received payments or other things of value such as shares in a medical dispensary from people within the medical marijuana industry and from attorneys between 2010 and August 2014. In return he provided union support for dispensaries, advice on how to thwart union organizing efforts and client referrals.
Medical dispensary operator Carl Andersen provided payments to Rush in 2010 and shares in the dispensary operation worth at least $51,000 in return for UFCW support for his efforts to obtain an Oakland dispensary permit, prosecutors allege.
Rush allegedly borrowed $600,000 from Martin Kaufman, a medical marijuana dispensary operator. The loan was structured to obscure its origins with the help of attorney Marc Terbeek, and when Rush could not repay it he accepted loan forgiveness in return for assistance in blocking union organizing efforts, according to federal prosecutors.
He also allegedly accepted kickbacks from Terbeek for referrals of dispensaries and workers compensation clients, and as a member of the Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission allegedly demanded a well-paid job from a dispensary in return for his support.
Rush was initially charged in August, and subsequently fired from his position with UFCW. At the time of his arrest he posted a statement from his attorney on Facebook calling his firing “entirely unjustified.”
The statement said:
“The accusations in this Complaint, that Mr. Rush acted in violation of labor laws and committed “honest services” fraud are nothing but allegations; they are unproven by any standard, let alone the criminal standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and have never been tested through cross examination in a court of law.”
Federal prosecutors said the case against Rush began with reports from those within the medical marijuana industry, and several of the people named in the complaint against him, including Terbeek and Kaufman, are now cooperating with investigators.
Bail was set at $500,000 at Rush’s initial court appearance on Aug. 12 and he is currently out of custody. He is next scheduled to appear on Sept. 23 at 9:30 a.m. in U.S. District Court in Oakland.