Former Berkeley cannabis official sentenced to 3 years in prison for money laundering

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Daniel Rush, the former head of the Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission, was sentenced to more than three years in prison Monday for felony charges related to corruption and money laundering.

The sentencing was handed down by U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. following Rush’s guilty pleas June 22, according to a Tuesday press release from the office of U.S. Attorney Brian Stretch. Rush pled guilty to money laundering, receiving an illegal payment as a union employee and conspiring with his former attorney Marc Terbeek.

Terbeek himself is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 27 after pleading guilty to alleged illegal payments to a union employee and violating an anti-structuring regulation.

Judge Gilliam said the case shows “large-scale, long-lasting corruption on the defendant’s part,” according to the press release.

In addition to the prison sentence, the press release said, Rush was also sentenced to be supervised for a three-year term upon release and ordered to pay a fine of $7,500.

The charges listed against him include an incident in which Rush, as a commissioner on the Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission, told a dispensary permit applicant that if they did not offer Rush a salaried job with benefits, he would take “adverse action” against their application, according to the press release.

As organizing coordinator for the unofficial cannabis division at United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Rush also accepted bribes from Terbeek in exchange for referring the cannabis businesses he worked with in his union role to Terbeek’s law practice.

Terbeek and Rush also conspired to launder about $420,000 in illegal drug proceeds into the banking system, deliberately mischaracterizing monthly interest payments as consulting fees.

Rush was on the Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission from 2011 to 2016 and was chair of the commission from 2011 to 2013, according to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko.  He was originally indicted on 15 counts of extortion, accepting bribes and money laundering in 2015, which could have resulted in a maximum sentence of 70 years in prison and $1.3 million in fines.

Chakko declined to comment on behalf of the Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission.

Contact Henry Tolchard at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @htolchard.