Former San Jacinto City Councilman Joel Lopez pleaded guilty Wednesday to operating an illegal cannabis shop in the city and was immediately sentenced to one year in jail and five years probation.

Lopez, 36, admitted charges of conspiracy and maintaining an unlawful marijuana facility — both felonies — as well as selling cannabis without a permit and failure to file a sales and use tax return with the state, which are misdemeanors.

The plea was during a status hearing at the Banning Justice Center and was made directly to Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Hollenhorst, without input from the District Attorney’s Office.

Not one of the charges for which Lopez was indicted was dismissed.

In June, his co-defendant, 33-year-old Edward Padilla of San Jacinto, admitted a conspiracy charge, and the three remaining counts under his indictment were dismissed as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Padilla, who had no documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County, was sentenced to two years probation.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, the defendants came under investigation in 2019 after evidence surfaced that they had been operating a cannabis shop, alternately called “Santa Fe Co-Op,” “Santa Fe Collective,” and “Santa Fe.”

The pair also hired others to help run the illicit dispensary, located at 1190 S. San Jacinto Ave., according to prosecutors.

The indictment stated that the men “placed cannabis or THC products for sale in display cases,” and that they “sold cannabis or THC products … to members of the public.”

A mobile delivery service was also utilized.

The amount of money collected from the operation was not specified.

It was further unclear exactly when it was shut down.

Lopez was arrested on June 10 but posted bail the same day and was released. Padilla was taken into custody a few days later and also posted bond.

Lopez had no documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County. He was elected to his first term in November 2018.

In October, his four colleagues on the San Jacinto City Council voted to remove him from his seat for lack of participation in a 90-day period. He was replaced by Councilman Michael Heath, who began attending meetings on Oct. 19, according to the Office of the City Clerk.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.