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San Jacinto Councilman Joel Lopez, Edward Padilla Jr. Charged With Operating Illegal Marijuana Dispensary

RIVERSIDE (CBSLA) — San Jacinto City Councilman Joel Lopez and another man are facing charges for allegedly operating an illegal marijuana dispensary, the Riverside County District Attorney's Office announced Friday.

Joel Lopez Edward Padilla
San Jacinto Councilman Joel Lopez, left, and Edward Padilla Jr., right, have been charged with operating an illegal cannabis dispensary. (Source: Riverside County District Attorney's Office)

Lopez, 35, and Edward Padilla Jr., 32, also of San Jacinto, were indicted on felony counts of conspiracy and maintaining an unlawful marijuana facility. They are also facing misdemeanor counts of selling cannabis without a permit and failure to file a sales and use tax return with the state.

According to the D.A.'s office, an investigation was launched in 2019 after evidence surfaced that the men had allegedly been operating a dispensary under the branding of "Santa Fe Co-Op," "Santa Fe Collective" and "Santa Fe."

The pair also allegedly hired others to help run the illegal dispensary, located at 1190 S. San Jacinto Ave., according to prosecutors.

The indictment further alleges that the men "placed cannabis or THC products for sale in display cases," and that they "sold cannabis or THC products ... to members of the public." They also allegedly used a mobile delivery service to sell the product.

It was not immediately clear how much money the men made from the illicit operation or when it was shut down.

Lopez, who was elected to his first term November 2018, was arrested June 10. He posted bail and was released the same day.

Padilla was taken into custody Tuesday and remained at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Neither the councilman nor Padilla have any prior felony convictions in the county. Padilla is scheduled to be arraigned next week, while the councilman's arraignment has been set for October.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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