John Melvin “Pops” Walker, whose nine medical marijuana dispensaries included two locations in Long Beach, was sentenced to 21 years and 10 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to distribute marijuana, maintaining drug-involved premises and tax evasion.
The 56-year-old San Clemente resident led what was described by federal authorities to be a massive stretch of illegal dispensaries that included locations not only in Long Beach, but Costa Mesa, Dana Point, Garden Grove, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, Santa Fe Springs and Whittier.
During his six years of operation, Walker raked in $25 million in income while simultaneously avoiding $4 million in taxes, of which he was ordered by U.S. District Judge James Selna to pay back plus $4.2 million in restitution to both the state and federal governments.
Selna expressed a dichotomous view of Walker in his sentencing–one described him as a family man and the other as a vigilant drug trafficker–following testimonies from three characters witnesses, including Boris Del Cid. Del Cid, a paraplegic, described Walker as a caring man who had taken care of him during his injury. He told how Walker had renovated Del Cid’s house to be disability accessible.
Despite positive character descriptions of Walker, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine S. Bautista argued that Walker–a previous convicted drug dealer–not only engaged in illegal acts but actively chose to engage in them.
His assets alone, which Bautista pointed out are still being added up, include his $1.7 million home in San Clemente, several mobile homes at Mammoth Lake, two strip clubs, as well as two rental properties and a stash house containing $500,000 in Long Beach, all of which was seized by authorities.
Kate Corrigan, Walker’s attorney, read a letter from Walker to the judge that expressed remorse for his crimes.
“I live with this guilt on a daily basis,” Walker had written in the letter, which mentioned him having to deal with the absence of his wife and daughter while in jail.
Additional reporting by Paul Anderson of City News Service