Criminal Justice

Attorney takes plea deal in marijuana 'grow house' case

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A Raleigh, North Carolina, attorney accused of playing a role in a marijuana “grow house” operation and using his law office to help prepare fraudulent applications for bank loans has taken a plea deal.

Joseph Lee Levinson pleaded guilty Friday to a federal conspiracy count concerning false statements made to federally insured financial institutions, says a news release from the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina. He faces a maximum five-year prison term and $250,000 fine when he is sentenced in May.

The government alleged that Levinson conspired with a college friend involved in a grow house operation in Orange County between 2005 and 2010 and worked with the friend to get bank funding to purchase grow houses, falsely claiming the homes would be used for legitimate purposes.

He was also accused of acting as closing attorney in the transactions.

When the marijuana operation ended in 2010, the friend stopped making payments, and the grow houses went into foreclosure.

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