OREGON HOUSE (YUBA COUNTY) CA - The president of a well-known winery linked to a federal investigation into marijuana trafficking denies any involvement in the drug trade.
A 223-acre parcel owned by the Fellowship of Friends, a spiritual organization that owns the Renaissance Vineyard & Winery, was among seven properties targeted in search warrants obtained by federal agents in September.
In the application for the search warrants, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent said a confidential source told him several members of the Fellowship of Friends grow marijuana on their individual properties to sell outside of California, using drivers and commercial shipping companies.
The source said the growers turn over a portion of their profits to the Fellowship of Friends, and that the organization's leaders are aware of the source of the money.
"We make very good wine, but no, we're not in the drug trafficking business," said Greg Holman, president of the Fellowship of Friends and the Renaissance Winery.
Holman said only one of the property owners identified in the search warrants was a current member of the Fellowship of Friends, and that he had been unaware the member was involved in marijuana cultivation until the September raids.
"It came as a complete surprise to me," Holman said.
Ultimately, Holman said he believes the member's cultivation is legal and a private matter that doesn't involved the Fellowship of Friends.
The land owned by the Fellowship of Friends that was identified in the search warrants is a remote parcel not physically connected to the winery and surrounding spiritual compound known as Apollo.
Although federal agents filed paperwork indicating they seized marijuana from the Fellowship of Friends property, Holman believes they misidentified the parcel and actually raided a neighbor's land.
Holman speculated the confidential source behind the investigation may be a former member of the Fellowship of Friends, an organization some have described as a cult.
"We've had 25,000 people come through in 40 years, and there's a few people that have some baggage when they leave," Holman said.
Although several of the people named in the search warrants were initially arrested in connection with the raids, none have yet been charged with a crime.
by George Warren, GWarren@news10.net