Federal authorities found hash oil, more than 1,300 rounds of ammunition and guns at the home of a Spokane Valley man accused of plotting arson to collect insurance money on a failed marijuana business, according to court documents filed this week.
Burk Aaron Thomas will ask the government to return his property, saying he owned the guns and ammunition legally, and they had nothing to do with the alleged crimes, according to his attorney.
Thomas, a licensed chiropractor in Idaho, was arrested in November after investigators discovered evidence a fire was intentionally set in a strip mall space he rented at 9827 E. Sprague Ave. Pavel Shevchenko, described in court documents as Thomas’s employee, is accused of setting the fire using camping propane containers. Shevchenko was linked to the fire using fingerprints, according to court documents.
Authorities with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms searched Thomas’s Spokane Valley home in November and discovered the weapons, ammunition and a silencer, according to court records. They also found hash oil, a marijuana extract high in THC, the psychoactive element of the drug.
Two rounds of ammunition were found at his chiropractic office in Coeur d’Alene, according to court records.
Fire officials said shortly after the fire that a marijuana dispensary had been planned at the 9827 E. Sprague Ave. location. The address was also listed on several applications submitted to the Washington Liquor Control Board for use as a recreational marijuana store.
The landlord, Harlan Douglass, has sued Burk for back rent totaling more than $5,000 and allegedly breaching the lease, according to court records.
Federal authorities have asked to seize Thomas’s ammunition, guns and silencer permanently. Federal law prohibits anyone “who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance” from owning a firearm. Marijuana remains illegal for any use under the federal Controlled Substances Act.
Christian Phelps, Thomas’ defense attorney, said he will contest the seizure.
“Part of the resistance to all this, guns or not, is that I consider this my client’s property,” Phelps said. Thomas has no felony criminal history and bought the guns and ammunition legally, Phelps said.
Washington and Idaho are two of the 38 states that permit private ownership of silencers, but they must be taxed and regulated by the government.
Thomas told authorities he “occasionally consumed hash oil and marijuana,” according to court records. He also told authorities he had a card permitting medicinal marijuana use in Washington.
Thomas was released without bail in November. Shevchenko was initially released, but is now in custody of Spokane County Jail after authorities alleged he threatened an employer in a dispute over tools several weeks later.
Both men have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them and a trial is tentatively scheduled for June. However, Shevchenko is scheduled to change his plea at a court hearing later this month.
According to the Idaho Board of Occupational Licenses, Thomas remains a licensed chiropractor in the state. He was originally licensed in 2009 and has no disciplinary actions on his record.
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