In a case that argues loudly for legalization, three men and one woman are charged with cutting off the penis of a medical marijuana dispensary owner during a robbery and kidnapping in Newport Beach.
According to authorities, the attackers thought the dispensary owner had buried cash in the desert outside Palm Springs and tortured him to find it. But he hadn’t, and all four now face charges of kidnapping for ransom, aggravated mayhem, torture and burglary. If convicted, a sentencing enhancement could be added for inflicting great bodily injury.
The attack probably wouldn’t have happened if California had legal weed or, at the least, if dispensaries could legally work with banks and other financial institutions. They’re barred from doing so now, and must instead deal in bulk cash.
That brings legitimate medical cannabis closer to the black market and increases the danger for everyone involved. The DEA has also made it much harder for dispensaries to employ security personnel.
The Department of Justice has suggested it may eventually loosen the restrictions on financial transactions. But at the time of the dispensary owner’s attack, the legal marijuana industry was forced to deal strictly in cash.
The dispensary owner, who hasn’t been identified, apparently took one of the alleged attackers, a pot supplier named Kyle Shirakawa Handley, along on a lavish business trip to Las Vegas in 2012. Handley walked away impressed by the dispensary owner’s apparent wealth.
After returning to California, Handley allegedly hatched a plan with three friends, Ryan Anthony Kevorkian, Naomi Josette Kevorkian and Hossein Nayeri. They would kidnap the dispensary owner and rob him, according to police and prosecutors. The friends soon began surveilling him and noted that he made frequent visits to the desert.
The alleged robbers surmised the dispensary owner went “to bury large amounts of cash,” according to authorities. They were wrong: He was going to discuss an investment deal.
On Oct. 12, 2012, the three men allegedly went to the dispensary owner’s home, stole cash, tied him up and beat him. They then kidnapped him and his roommate’s girlfriend and drove them out into the desert, authorities said.
Along the way, the dispensary owner was tortured with a blow torch, and when they arrived at the spot where they thought he’d buried the money, they cut off his penis and doused him in bleach to try to destry DNA evidence. They dumped both victims on the side of the road, still bound, and drove off with the dispensary owner’s penis so he couldn’t reattach it.
The roommate’s girlfriend was able to run more than a mile in the dark, with her hands bound, and flag down a cop car. The dispensary owner survived.
Handley was arrested in California in October and pleaded not guilty. Ryan and Naomi Kevorkian were arrested in Fresno Nov. 8. Hossein Nayeri went to Iran after the crime and was arrested in Prague while changing flights on his way to Spain. He faces likely extradition.