Sacramento cannabis king linked to Ukrainian who was indicted with Giuliani associates

imageA Ukrainian-born man indicted in a campaign-finance scheme along with two associates of Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney, is an officer in a Sacramento cannabis dispensary controlled by a local businessman with a considerable share of the city’s pot business, records show.

Andrey Kukushkin was among four men indicted last week in an intricate plan to funnel foreign campaign donations to U.S. politicians and enter the legal pot business in Nevada and other states. Two of the defendants, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, are associates of Giuliani and were reportedly helping him investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, one of the leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, and his son.

Now, that international scandal has unraveled a considerable subplot in Sacramento.

City and state records show Kukushkin’s partner in Sacramento is Garib Karapetyan, a permit holder for a total of eight dispensaries in the city. Karapetyan and his associates have become the de facto pot kings of Sacramento, controlling far more licenses than anyone else and papering the city with billboards and ads for their dispensaries

Karapetyan, 35, has for years quietly and systematically expanded his pot-selling business throughout the city with the consent of Sacramento regulators, controlling nearly a third of the industry here. He has donated to the campaigns of local elected officials, including Mayor Darrell Steinberg, and purchased a $1.1 million condo in the luxury Sawyer Hotel near the Golden 1 Center.

There is no evidence that any of the money cited in last week’s indictment has been used to invest in the pot business in Sacramento.

However, the arrests draw a direct line from the alleged plan to funnel foreign donations to U.S. politicians, and the impeachment investigation in Congress, to the doorstep of Sacramento’s burgeoning legal pot industry. Several California politicians, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, accepted donations from Parnas and Fruman, and their work for Giuliani has become part of the impeachment investigation against Trump.

Kukushkin, who was arrested Thursday in San Francisco, is listed as chief financial officer of a corporation called Sharp Source, which operates the Twelve Hour Care retail pot dispensary in a nondescript strip mall on Fruitridge Road in Sacramento, according to records reviewed by The Bee.

Kukushkin, 46, also is listed as one of two permit holders for THC Sacramento, the alternate name for Twelve Hour Care, in documents filed with the city. Kukushkin has been among those holding the permit for the THC dispensary since 2017.

For years, the city of Sacramento and its pot regulators have allowed business owners such as Karapetyan to gain control of a large segment of the storefront pot market in the city, as Karapetyan has added a variety of investors along the way. Kukushkin was one of those investors.

The tangled business interests associated with Karapetyan’s pot dispensaries illustrate how some owners have been allowed to expand despite relatively tight rules about ownership. Under city regulations, dispensary owners who want to get out of the business must surrender their licenses to the city; the city is then supposed to hold a lottery to determine the new owner.

Kukushkin and Karapetyan also were listed as officers in a Sacramento “management and consulting” business called Legacy Botanical Company LLC, according to records filed with the Secretary of State’s Office in 2016. The state agency’s website says the company’s business license has been suspended. The Legacy Botanical connection between Kukushkin and Karapetyan was first reported by Mother Jones magazine.

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