In one of the more unusual twists in Kern County’s marijuana fight over the past month is the rapid souring of the close, personal relationship between marijuana shop owner David Abbasi and Supervisor Leticia Perez and her husband Fernando Jara.
Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green is investigating allegations that Abbasi, frustrated that he could not get his closed medical marijuana dispensaries reopened in Kern County, resorted to extortion and blackmail against Perez and Ben Eilenberg, the leader of the Committee for Safer Neighborhoods and Schools PAC.
The group has drafted an initiative aimed at overturning Kern County’s ban on commercial cannabis and has targeted Supervisor Mike Maggard with online political advertisements.
Over Super Bowl weekend, records viewed or obtained by The Californian show, Abbasi targeted Eilenberg and Perez with texted demands for special treatment under threat of embarrassment.
Eilenberg said, in a Feb. 5 complaint to the California Bar of California against Abbasi’s attorney Abraham Labbad, attached threatening e-mails Abbasi sent to him.
Abbasi wanted several things added to Eilenberg’s initiative including:
The ability for “old dispensaries” like his to get on the county list by showing they were established before May 10, to be able to relocate and to be allowed to operate without obtaining a conditional use permit from the county.
“If you do not agree to these things by 11:15 am, I'm going to release information to the press that will ruin you and other people. No more games,” wrote Abbasi, copying the message to Labbad.
Abbasi sent similar threats to Perez demanding that she exert her power as a supervisor to put his dispensary on the list of legally permitted marijuana businesses in the county.
In texts with Abbasi, viewed by a reporter, Perez declined, saying it was unethical and impossible.
Abbasi wrote that he would release audio tape of a meeting with attorney Daniel Rodriguez that Perez set up that would embarrass her.
Perez said she felt sorry for Abbasi and out of friendship, took him to meet Rodriquez after she made it clear she would not and could not get him what he wanted.
After a barrage of angry texts from Abbasi, Perez eventually blocked him.
Abbasi made good on his threats with the help of his attorney Labbad. They emailed declarations to the county that stated Perez told him and Rodriguez in the meeting that two political consultants with connections to Maggard had tried to bribe her on an unrelated political issue and that she was sure Maggard had taken the bribe.
Abbasi said he has proof, but when asked if he had recorded Perez and Rodriguez without their knowledge, a potentially illegal act, he said, “no comment.”
Perez said she has filed a criminal complaint with the Bakersfield Police Department against him.
District Attorney Green acknowledged Wednesday that her office is investigating those claims.
Abbasi, in texts, told a reporter that his communications were not extortion.
“I asked to have my input on the ballot measure. (Eilenberg) refused and I told them I would run my own ballot measure,” he wrote. “I don't think that's extortion. Asking for the county to be fair and not ban illegally is reasonable. If they don't want to do that then we have no choice but to litigate.”
Abbasi said he is taking his case to the FBI.