High Profile Local Businessman Arrested
From Issue: Volume XX - Number 18
By Steve Propes
During the public comment section of the Long Beach City Council meeting of August 21, 2012, several speakers argued for and against an entertainment permit for the El Dorado Restaurant located at Spring Street and Studebaker Road.
During the comments, Fifth District Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske, who began commenting on the subject was interrupted by City Attorney Robert Shannon, who warned her against making any statements as the subject was not on the agenda.
Some close to the subject have opined that Shannon did not want the subject discussed, as he was aware of the pending arrest of the El Dorado’s owner and East Long Beach resident, Jon Storms for maintaining an illegal marijuana dispensary.
According to an unnamed fellow high school student, Storms graduated from Millikan High School in 1987. It’s not known exactly when his career as a businessman began, but apparently his first business was that of tanning salons.
Storms owns California Tan at 4180 N. Viking Way in Parkview Village, which according to a regular customer, also stocks and sells “stripper-style” clothing. He has a second tan operation at 1714 Clark Ave. as well as a Parkview Village bikini shop and a limousine rental business. In fact, according to one dispensary associate, Storms was considering opening a dispensary in Parkview Village prior to the retroactive city ban against such outlets near park land in early 2010.
In 2007, Storms became interested in the dispensary business, said the dispensary associate. “He and I started this whole thing in the early days.” According to this source, Storms and other prospective dispensary operators met with Seventh District Councilwoman Tonia Reyes-Uranga at the Green Dog Bar. Tonia, me and Jon started the whole ordinance business; she took us around to meet people at city hall.”
Storms participated in the city dispensary lottery in 2009. His Quality Discount Caregivers at 1150 San Antonio Drive in North Long Beach was included in an early city list of 37 lottery winners, but missing in a later list, which pared the number of winners down to 26.
“He’s a good person, treats his patients well,” said the dispensary associate. “He’s one of the founding fathers of the business in the city. He worked for Mark Adams, then they all went off on their own, either at odds or working with each other, but they generally didn’t get along. He started a store on Second Street, which Adams didn’t want him to do. He opened there despite promises to Adams. He was thought to be a lucky one. He had a lot of cash and lot of merchandise, always well stocked,” which the seizure and arrest “could have done enough damage to stop him from restocking,” the associate commented.
“I was a patient there. He was only open since 2007, but he had been in it since the early 2000s. He was in the group of 9 that made it through the lottery, but when they threw in the proximity to parks ban, he was ordered to shut down. He was legit as you could be in this town. He went to Parkview Village to lease a property, which didn’t go through. If he had been regulated, he would have had to report his income,” which police allege was in the area of $1 to $2 million a year.
Police stated after a year and half investigation, five locations in Long Beach, one in Signal Hill, one in Corona, and two in Needles, California were listed in search warrants, which included Storms’ Long Beach residence at 7040 E. Mezzanine Way where Storms was arrested for sales of marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale.
Among the items were seized at the various search warrant locations on August 22 included $806,500 in cash, body armor, 14 rifles, 17 handguns, three shotguns, 17 new and vintage cars, one truck, one boat, three personal water craft, three motorcycles, one 40’ RV and seven off-road recreational vehicles.” According to his associate, these very high profile “toys” might have contributed to his visibility, thus to his arrest.
The investigative agencies working on the case included the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and Long Beach Police, whose Chief Jim McDonnell alleged Storm’s collective was actually a for-profit business, offering coupons, discounts several times a month, free pipes and free marijuana on certain days to the first 20 customers to come into the dispensary.
“If this had truly been a nonprofit collective, there would be no need to provide an incentive for members to purchase more of what is already theirs,” the chief said.
Though arrested, Storms was not taken into custody as the investigating agencies need additional time to evaluate the evidence and bring the charges to court. About this, the dispensary insider predicted, “The DA doesn’t want to press charges. They’re afraid of what happened to Grumbine,” who was tried in another high-profile marijuana collective case. “They don’t want to touch it until the elections.”
Reyes-Uranga did not return a call asking for comment. Contacted through an acquaintance, Storms declined to be interviewed until after a court hearing.