SMOKED OUT: A screen-grab from a video on the Eaze website.
The cannabis industry is in a legal twilight zone that makes payments difficult.
On March 9, 2020, a German IT consultant named Ruben Weigand had a layover in Los Angeles as he traveled from Switzerland to Costa Rica. He never made it to his destination because US authorities arrested him as he was changing planes.
The feds say Weigand and a co-conspirator, Hamid “Ray” Akhavan, were the masterminds behind a multimillion-dollar bank-fraud scheme. The supposed fraud? Tricking US banks into processing more than $100 million in marijuana transactions that went contrary to the banks’ rules. According to a March indictment, the pair disguised marijuana transactions as purchases of dog toys, carbonated drinks, diving gear, and other products unrelated to cannabis.
Lawyers for the two men say this is ludicrous because the alleged bank fraud had no victims. The customers knew exactly what they were paying for. The banks involved suffered no losses—in fact, they made money from transaction fees.
Moreover, marijuana is legal under state law in California and Oregon, where the transactions occurred. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but since 2014, a rule called the Rohrabacher Amendment has prohibited the feds from interfering with state medical marijuana laws. In a recent motion seeking dismissal of the case, Akhavan’s lawyers portray the prosecution as an attempted end-run around this restriction.