Two brothers arrested, accused of drug dealing

October 30, 2007

Jason Sweeney, Paul Thissen and Scott Marshall, Mercury News (San Jose)

Federal agents arrested two brothers early Tuesday and seized a Lafayette house after they were indicted on charges that they ran a multimillion-dollar drug operation out of a Hayward-area medical-marijuana collective.

Winslow Norton, 26, of Lafayette and Abraham Norton, 23, of Oakland were indicted on charges of conspiring to distribute more than 220 pounds of marijuana and money laundering, among other allegations.

The three-bedroom house in Lafayette is on Cowan Road in a hilly, densely wooded area that was quiet until the raid occurred.

"I heard somebody screaming, it was, like, 3:30, maybe quarter to four. ... 'Open the door! Open the door!'" said next-door neighbor Maryanna Sandurson.

She said the house sold in February for $1.5 million. The previous owner told Sandurson's gardener that he was paid $1 million in cash. The previous owner stayed a bit after February, and nobody new moved in until June. But they never really moved in, she said, just came and went.

"You never saw moving vans," she said, noting that people came and went at odd hours.

"We never saw anybody there," except sometimes for lights on at night, said another neighbor, Richard Lininger.

At 6 a.m. Tuesday, federal Drug Enforcement Administration and Internal Revenue Service agents raided the Compassionate Collective of Alameda County at 21222 Mission Blvd. near Blossom Way, just north of Hayward.

The Nortons had used an armored car service to move drug proceeds to banks from the collective, where they employed armed guards, prosecutors allege. Sales from January to June totaled more than $26.3 million; last year, $21.5 million; and $1.3 million in 2005, up from $74,000 in 2004, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

In other raids Tuesday that also included sites in Oakland, Berkeley and Albany, federal agents reportedly seized several hundred pounds of marijuana, packaging materials and about $200,000 in cash. Also seized were two late-model Mercedes-Benz cars, a Ford F-250 pickup, three motorcycles, two bank accounts, two Individual Retirement Accounts and a commercial building in Albany.

The Hayward raid drew a handful of protesters and some criticism.

Bob Swanson, constituent liaison to Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, said he was there to observe the raid and would report back to the county Board of Supervisors.

"This is a federal raid based on federal law," Swanson said. "It's truly unfortunate that the DEA feels they have to come in and waste taxpayer dollars to keep medical marijuana from patients."

"As far as we know, (Winslow and Abraham Norton) were operating within the (county) ordinance and within state law," he said.

Reach Jason Sweeney at 510-293-2469 or jsweeney@bayareanewsgroup.com. Reach Paul Thissen at 925-943-8163 or pthissen@bayareanewsgroup.com.



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