Three men fraudulently obtained a federal loan to open Mari J’s Highway Pot Shop in Everett’s Silver Lake neighborhood in 2017. The store shut down in April 2019. (Zachariah Bryan / Herald file)

Three men fraudulently obtained a federal loan to open Mari J’s Highway Pot Shop in Everett’s Silver Lake neighborhood in 2017. The store shut down in April 2019. (Zachariah Bryan / Herald file)

Trio admits to theft in loan to open pot shop in Everett

They financed Mari J’s Highway Pot Shop. They entered a diversion program to avoid a harsh sentence.

EVERETT — Three men who fraudulently obtained a $1.5 million federal loan to open a marijuana store have entered a felony diversion program.

Conrado Topacio, 58, Henry Jacky, 46, and James Koory, 46, were accused of first-degree theft for deceiving Everett-based Coastal Community Bank, as well as several other people, to obtain the loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

They used that money, against federal rules, to open Mari J’s Highway Pot Shop in Everett’s Silver Lake neighborhood in the summer of 2015. While marijuana has been legalized in Washington state, the federal government still classifies it as a Schedule 1 drug. So the defendants lied, and said they were using the loan for a restaurant, according to court papers.

By entering the felony diversion program, the trio of defendants are admitting their guilt and waiving their right to a trial. If they meet the requirements of the program, they have an opportunity to have their charges dropped within three years. They’ll be required to attend monthly meetings with a program counselor, comply with any recommended treatment or education, pay any required restitution and maintain a clean and sober lifestyle.

Topacio, a Seattle broker, set his eyes on the property that would become Mari J’s in September 2013, when he entered a listing agreement with the owners. He almost immediately began lying to them about interest in the building and purposefully kept buyers away, prosecutors alleged.

Meanwhile, Topacio worked with two other men to submit an offer to acquire the property, documents say. Koory and Jacky were accused of acting as the frontmen, while Topacio allegedly hid his involvement.

Out of options, the owners finalized a deal in March 2014.

Topacio and Jacky each entered a state lottery to obtain a retail marijuana license, but both failed to get one. They turned to an Everett woman, who did receive a license, to open what would be called Mari J’s Highway Pot Shop.

The three men also applied for the $1.5 million SBA loan through Everett-based Coastal Community Bank. To avoid federal regulations, the defendants told the bank they were opening a country-themed bar called the Stomping Grounds Restaurant, according to charging papers, and forged a Seattle restaurateur’s name to gain credibility.

They got the loan, but Stomping Grounds never became a reality. Instead, they opened Mari J’s, without ever informing the bank. To get loan disbursements, they falsified invoices, including ones from a coffee company and a contractor, according to the charges.

Mari J’s shut down in April, after the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board accused the owner of hiding the business’ financiers.

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; Twitter: @zachariahtb.

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