Marijuana Enforcement Division auditor and whistle blower Rino Tenorio says he’s been targeted by his boss, Dept. of Taxation Executive Director Melanie Young. (Photo: Jeniffer Solis)
Nevada’s federally-prohibited marijuana industry and the agency that regulates it, the Nevada Department of Taxation, have caught the generally unwelcome attention of the FBI, according to emails obtained by the Current.
Rino Tenorio, an auditor from the Department of Taxation’s Marijuana Enforcement Division, met with FBI agents in March 2019, according to the emails. Tenorio revealed a laundry list of questionable, if not illegal practices, including how regulators deleted disciplinary records of dispensary sales to minors, bent the rules to favor certain establishments, and stored undocumented, unsecured and unknown quantities of seized marijuana in a state office.
Special agent Mark Neria reached out to Tenorio again in July, asking to meet in August.
“He just encouraged me to keep reporting to him,” Tenorio says.
The FBI did not respond to the Current’s request for comment.
In an August podcast, FBI agents say they are “seeing a public corruption threat emerge in the expanding cannabis industry.”
Agents say state licenses to participate in the industry are “opening the possibility for public officials to become susceptible to bribes in exchange for those licenses.”
“The corruption is more prevalent in western states where the licensing is decentralized—meaning the level of corruption can span from the highest to the lowest level of public officials,” says agent Molly Halpern.
Tenorio says he’s been unwittingly caught up in litigation filed by marijuana license applicants who are claiming the Department of Taxation, which regulates the marijuana industry, is either inept or corrupt.
Unsuccessful applicants sued when the state awarded the lion’s share of licenses in 2018 to a handful of owners while others were shut out. A trial is set for