OAKLAND — A former labor organizer who led union efforts to organize America’s cannabis industry has pleaded guilty to three felony counts in federal court in Oakland for taking money from businesses he was attempting to organize, prosecutors said.
Daniel Rush, 56, a former Oakland resident who now lives in Crescent City, pleaded guilty on Thursday to receiving an illegal payment as a union employee, honest services fraud and conspiracy to commit structuring and money laundering, U.S. Attorney Brian Stretch and FBI Special Agent In Charge John Bennett said.
Prosecutors said Rush admitted that he was employed by the United Food and Commercial Workers International (UFCW) as its organizing coordinator for its unofficial medical cannabis and hemp division.
Rush had fiduciary duties to the union and its constitution prohibited him from accepting dual compensation or expenses related to the performance of his duties, according to prosecutors.
Rush admitted in his plea agreement that he violated the Taft-Hartley Act when he accepted compensation from employees in, or potentially in, a labor organization, prosecutors said.
In addition, Rush admitted he committed honest services wire fraud when he conspired with attorney MarcTerBeck, 50, of Berkeley, to launder money and to evade reporting requirements in an effort to conceal the course of the money, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
TerBeek pleaded guilty in February to making illegal payments to Rush in violation of the Hartley Act and to violating anti-structuring regulations, according to prosecutors.
According to Rush’s plea agreement, in January 2010 a marijuana entrepreneur loaned Rush $500,000 in cash, ostensibly to be used to develop pieces of real estate property under Rush’s control.
Rush promised to pay the entrepreneur $3,000 in interest per month for 5 years and then pay the balance in a lump sum in January 2015.
But Rush knew that the money he borrowed had been earned in connection with illegal marijuana cultivation activities and that therefore the money was the proceeds of unlawful activity, prosecutors said.
Rush acknowledged that he and TerBeek conspired to structure the loan proceeds into the banking system and they further agreed to falsely characterize the $3,000 monthly payments as consulting fees, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors said that by 2014 the individual who loaned the money to Rush in 2010 was an employer in the medical marijuana industry that Rush was trying to organize.
Rush used his position in the UFCW to make official recommendations to government entities for the individual’s marijuana business and accepted at least $250,000 of debt forgiveness from the
individual, according to prosecutors.
Rush, who’s currently free on a $100,000 bond, could face up to 30 years in federal prison and more than $500,0000 in fines when he’s sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. on Oct. 2.
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