Two former Broncos were allegedly swindled into funding an illegal marijuana operation

A citizen complaint in 2014 tipped law enforcement officials off about the alleged illegal activity, which was described as the “Toker Poker” operation.

Marijuana at Verde Natural's grow facility. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

marijuana; pot; weed; verde natural; tommy chong; grow; agriculture; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado;
Marijuana at Verde Natural's grow facility. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) marijuana; pot; weed; verde natural; tommy chong; grow; agriculture; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado;
Weeeeee-duh. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Dozens of people have been arrested on accusations that they ran an illegal marijuana trafficking ring out of Colorado. It’s reportedly the largest bust since the drug was legalized in Colorado, backed by unknowing investors.

It was big enough, in fact, that two of the people the conspirators allegedly swindled were former Denver Broncos, according to court records.

The group of 62 people is accused of masquerading for four years as medical marijuana patient caregivers; property managers who serviced marijuana growers; and small business owners. The operation allegedly trafficked thousands of pounds of marijuana out of state.

Select members of the group are accused of convincing friends and business associates to invest in state-licensed marijuana grow facilities. Instead, their money helped fund the illegal operation.

Former Denver Broncos Erik Pears and Joel Dreesen were among those unknowingly roped into investing in the alleged scheme. Court documents show the men believed they were funding a legal marijuana grow operation. Pears played for the Broncos from 2006-07, while Dreesen was with Denver from 2012-13.

Former Brono Erik Pears, pictured here during his playing days. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)
Former Brono Erik Pears, pictured here during his playing days. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)
Former Bronco Joel Dreesen, also pictured here during his playing days. (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)
Former Bronco Joel Dreesen, also pictured here during his playing days. (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

Law enforcement officials seized 2,600 illegally cultivated marijuana plants and 4,000 pounds of marijuana in all. The operation produced over 100 pounds of marijuana per month on average. The conspirators laundered millions of dollars since the scheme began in 2014.

“This case is a prime example that the black market for marijuana has not gone away since recreational marijuana was legalized in our state, and in fact continues to flourish,” said Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, who announced the indictment Wednesday.

A citizen complaint in 2014 tipped law enforcement officials off about the alleged illegal activity, which was described as the “Toker Poker” operation.

“The Toker Poker operation dealt a major blow to the illegal marijuana industry,” said Denver Police Chief Robert White. “The success of stopping this illegal operation was due to the collaboration of multiple federal, state and local partners, which included more than 250 police officers, who worked tirelessly in to bring these criminals to justice.”

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Christian Clark

Author: Christian Clark

Christian Clark covers sports. He's worked for outlets that include the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Oklahoman, Columbia Missourian and Dave Campbell's Texas Football magazine. He likes music and Mexican food. Lots and lots of Mexican food. Got questions? Tips? You can reach him at cclark@denverite.com.