Medical marijuana: Greenway U. had just 112 students, owner had another conviction

cropped gus escamilla greenway university photo.jpg
Gus Escamilla.
Update: Greenway University, which specializes in marijuana-related instruction, was closed by the state in part because owner Gus Escamilla didn't disclose a 2000 conviction on a license application. We've now obtained documents showing another conviction, this one in 2003 -- and a Department of Higher Education spokesman says GU has only had 112 students to date, not the 3,000 Escamilla mentioned.

During an interview on Wednesday, Escamilla confirmed that he had a 2000 conviction for felony grand theft by embezzlement. He said his improper actions flowed from a series of personal and financial setbacks caused by a 1999 diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and subsequent radiation and chemotherapy treatment that went on for a couple of years. But he made no mention of other encounters with the law -- including one that reportedly took place from late 2001 to early 2003.

According to documents from the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, on view in their entirety below, Gustavo Escamilla Isquierdo, Escamilla's full name, was accused of committing felony grand theft on December 20, 2001, by taking a 2002 Mercedes Benz. Additional allegations include identity theft, for unlawfully obtaining personal identifying information from one Shannon Orisio without her consent; forgery for signing Orisio's name and that of a Hector Andrade with an intent to defraud; and making a false financial statement "by using a ficitious name, social security number, business name, business address and by representing himself to be another person and business."

Circa early 2003, a three-year sentence on the grand theft count was suspended in favor of probation for the same length of time. Escamilla was also directed to pay restitution to Orisio in the amended amount of $7,080.20. In addition, he was ordered to stay away and not associate with her.

Regarding the number of students at Greenway, he responded to a question on that subject by saying that "we've seen over 3,000 students since we've started" -- rather vague phrasing. As for the specifics, Colorado Department of Higher Education spokesman Chad Marturano says the number of individuals who paid a state-required, per-student fee was 112.

We've requested a followup interview with Escamilla. When and if he responds, we'll update this post. Look below for the aforementioned California court documents, which can also be accessed by clicking here, and our earlier coverage.

State of California vs. Gustavo Escamilla Isquierdo -- April 2003

Update, 2:28 p.m. July 27: As we reported earlier today, officials have temporarily shut down Greenway University, Colorado's first state-licensed medical marijuana school, after discovering owner and CEO Gus Escamilla and a chancellor both had felony convictions that weren't mentioned in the GU application. However, Escamilla describes the situation as a temporary setback and expects Greenway to be back in operation soon.

Escamilla doesn't deny that in 2000, while living in California, he pleaded guilty to felony grand theft by embezzlement. "That all stemmed from me having Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma," he maintains. "I was diagnosed in 1999, and I went through two years of radiation and chemotherapy. It was a very troubling time for me personally. I probably lost a hundred pounds, and when you've got such a serious illness and you're losing your business" -- he says he ran a mortgage and real estate office at the time -- "some things just don't get put in priority the way they should."

Why did he answer "no" to a question about past felony convictions on Greenway University's application form?

"I was under the impression that the case had been expunged," he allows. "I had an attorney that we paid to do that, and I assumed everything was okay -- because when you expunge a case in California, the guilty plea is set aside and they dismiss the case. But I later found out that the attorney is no longer around. She's been disbarred and fled to Mexico with a lot of clients' money."

As for chancellor Marc Kent, who reportedly had a past mail fraud conviction, Escamilla insists that an instructor application submitted for him included this factoid, but somehow, "the state doesn't have the information." He adds that Kent "has never taught at our campus" and the conviction took place in 1989.

Not that Escamilla rips state officials for their actions. "We respect their decision, and we'll work directly with them to get any and all information," he emphasizes -- and he hopes that once board members have had a chance to consider the Greenway presentation, the school will be allowed to start up again.

According to him, "we've had zero complaints from any students" -- approximately 3,000 have passed through GU's doors to date, he estimates -- "and we get overwhelming reviews. Ultimately, it's about the patients and the students, which is why we'll continue to move forward in a positive direction."

That means sticking around rather than hitting the road, Escamilla adds. "We're rooted here. We're embedded here. Colorado has been great to us. We love the community, love everything we've been able to accomplish, and we're not going anywhere. We'll continue to work toward a resolution, and we intend on remaining an integral part of the community."

One more thing: After the initial publication of this post, Colorado Department of Higher Education spokesman Chad Marturano called to note that CDHE officials are now exploring the possibility of conducting criminal background checks on new applicants for state licensure, including recruiters -- something that's not part of its statutory mandate at present.

Look below for our earlier coverage.

Original item, 9:57 a.m. July 27: In June 2010, Greenway University became Colorado's first state-licensed medical marijuana school -- but that designation is in serious jeopardy.

The Colorado Department of Higher Education's Division of Private Occupational Schools board has temporarily suspended operations at Greenway, and an impending hearing could make that judgment permanent.

As reported by 7News, this action was taken after officials discovered that owner and CEO Gus Escamilla, who has not responded to an interview request at this writing, had inaccurately claimed on the license application that he had never been convicted of a felony. In fact, he pleaded guilty to felony grand theft by embezzlement in California circa 2000. Moreover, the application also failed to note that chancellor Marc Kent had previously pleaded guilty to mail fraud.

Shouldn't the state have stumbled upon these factoids prior to approving Greenway's license? Turns out that's not how the process works, says Department of Higher Education spokesman Chad Marturano.

"The law doesn't give us the ability to do criminal background checks," Marturano reveals. "When we were set up, that wasn't part of the statutory charge. When people fill out the application, it's self-disclosing -- and by signing the document, they swear an oath that it's completely accurate. But for us to be able to do a criminal background check, we would have to have a broader scope -- and while I'm sure that was debated when we were set up, back in 1981, we weren't given that charge."

So how did the state become aware of the discrepancy? It's Marturano's understanding that a complaint was filed, prompting personnel to do a web search, as opposed to a formal criminal background check. At that point, the truth was discovered, and the board was informed.

"We're not an academic accrediting agency," Marturano stresses. "We're more like a consumer protection agency. Typically, occupational schools are profit-driven, so it's basically a business. And the board looked at this to fulfill its statutory charge of making sure any schools out there are in good standing, and that we're protecting folks against possibly fraudulent business practices."

According to Marturano, "the board gave Greenway an opportunity to respond to these findings prior to their decision -- and they provided us with a binder of documents to indicate where they're coming from." Nonetheless, the school has been placed on what's deemed a summary suspension, "which ceases any course instruction or ability to enroll new students," he continues. "There'll be a formal hearing to be scheduled within the next thirty days, and sometime after that period, a hearing will be held where the board will determine if they should be restored or closed."

Can Greenway still win the state's blessing? Or is it doomed?

"There's definitely a statutory process as to how this will unfold," Marturano notes. "And one thing directly cited in statute says that owners, officers, agents, administrators and instructors must be 'of good reputation and free from moral turpitude.' And in making their determination, the board has the application that asks, 'Have you ever committed a felony?' And the response was inaccurate, for whatever reason."

More from our Marijuana archive: "Greenway University plans to build 'premier worldwide medical marijuana training facility' in Denver."

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30 comments
Guest
Guest

Is the State of Colorado, allowing these convicts and conmen, to escape the state, with everyones money unpunished? There is now a for sale sign, on Greenway Universities campus, but still there are no charges being filed against these criminals.

They have bilked 100's of 1000's of dollars from students, landlords, pr companies and investors, and are now just skipping town?

Where is the justice?

Marijuana Addiction
Marijuana Addiction

Steady monitoring and timely intervention to detect alcohol or substance abuse in young ones using drug or alcohol tests is incredibly vital that you save them from future damaging implications. This text gives you you with reasons for testing your teenager for alcohol or substance abuse. ... The time has come when proper info is really only one click away, use this opportunity. Technorati Tags: shopping. Posted under General. This post was written by assistant on 

Guest
Guest

Word on the street is...the AG's office is preparing formal charges against Escamilla and friends...

os
os

anyone with his very own glamour shot of himself is usually an idiot 

TimothyTipton
TimothyTipton

My 30 year Holistic Doctor describes the man as, "Greasey".....Now, I know what that means. I guess some folks first impressions ARE everlasting!

Guest
Guest

Gee, whoda thunk a slickster in a sharp suit with a lot of big promises would turn out to be a liar and con artist? I mean, he was always so well dressed and so polite to all the ladies, he MUST be honest, right?

Anyone who gives Chloe Villano the title of "professor" without any irony is either an idiot, liar or both. I think the third category best applies here.

Info
Info

Funny 

Info
Info

Im sure you do not know Chloe Villano as she is highly motiated and credible.  Looks like a pretty big claim for some idot who deosnt have the balls to post who they are. Im sure you havent accomplished what she has.  The only idiot and liar here is you.  

Ida
Ida

Gus took our money and thretened us when he came to New Jersy. He is bad person. Tom too.

Harmony foundation

JoeyCAbuddy
JoeyCAbuddy

Greenway is now being sued for fraud and racketeering as well as failing to pay 130k to its PR company....Gus committed perjury, when he signed the state application... Tick tock , tick tock...your time is coming...Mr Isquierdo...Escamilla...or whatever your real name is...

Scamstoppernow
Scamstoppernow

Lies, lies and more lies...

Wait til they find out about the active  bench warrant for Mr. Escamilla Isqueirdo, for assaulting his girlfriend then leaving the state, before being convicted...

Is Mr. Escamilla aka Isqueirdo going to take "full responsibility" for his actions and go back to California to and take his punishment??

It's people like this, that give legitimate Medical Marijuana Advocates a bad name...and hurt the whole patient initiative. I hope Colorado throws the book at him...

Get out of our state Gustavo...go back to California...and face the music...

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen

Oh what a tangle web we weaveWhen first we practice to deceive.

Guest
Guest

I don't think this was exactly "Mr." Escamilla's first attempt at deception.

Scamstoppernow
Scamstoppernow

Greenway material and classes give you no more information than you can get on the internet. They make almost all their money doing seminars, to unknowing and unwitting students. There is no substance behind what they say. It's just a dog and pony show. Gus and friends don't know much about the industry. All the Dispensories they claim to have opened, in California are closed down, many of the owners arrested and/ or bankrupt, because of their bad advice.

Gus Escamilla aka Gustavo Isqueirdo, had an active warrant for him in California, for domestic violence. You should be watching out your windows Gustavo...authorites are coming for you...

These people are bad news...It's great they are finally being exposed for what they are.

Get out of Colorado Mr. Isqueirdo!!! Maybe you should join your attorney, down in Mexico!!

Good Riddens!!!

High Country Caregiver
High Country Caregiver

This is probably just the tip of the iceberg of all the criminals involved in the commercial Colorado cannabis industry.

Contact
Contact

I imagine we have criminals in every aspect of our society, including liquor store owners, small business folks, and even law enforcement.....Why are you singling out MMJ....

NotJohnSmith
NotJohnSmith

Just look at the comment section from the May 13 westword blog about volume communications' lawsuit against greenway. "JohnSmith" seems pretty dead-on given the news reported by 7News last night.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Here's the link to that post. Thanks for mentioning it, NotJohn.

http://blogs.westword.com/late...

NotJohnSmith
NotJohnSmith

Now for the real question...

Is 7News just trolling Westword archives to uncover all their big MMJ "scoops"?

High Country Caregiver
High Country Caregiver

I'd say Westword is the Denver leader in MMj news.  I can't find a better authority, and 2 / 3 of the time I just go to Westword now, for Cannabis fun and dialect, rather than Google.  Westword understands the social aspects of cannabis, and since we can't gather in public and blaze, this is the next best thing, blaze at home and jump on Westword blog and chat about weed!  Love it! 

Dale Sky Jones
Dale Sky Jones

They should move to Oakland. Just look at Steve DeAngelo. He was a NYC junkie for half his life and now he is the head of the largest pot club in the state.  -- 'of good reputation and free from moral turpitude.' -- this expression means nothing here in good ole California.

Crunchy, deep-fried critters.
Crunchy, deep-fried critters.

You don't need a school to figure out how to sell and grow.  With growing, you just need to crack a book or two and experiment with different techniques.  Yes, you may have to wait *gasp* several months to a year before you figure out what and what not to do.  Anything worthwhile takes some time to come to fruition, however.  Besides, I doubt this "school" actually does research on new techniques.  Someone probably is just regurgitating the way they already know and is passing it along to others.  Where's the innovation?  This "Master Grower Certification" seems to carry about as much weight as an online doctoral program where you pay $100 and get a "diploma" in the mail.

With selling, I mean come on... Really?  Why not work along side someone who knows what they're doing and get paid for it, rather than paying someone to show you how it's done?

Monterey Bud
Monterey Bud

What ever the outcome is w/ Greenway U... I can still find my MMJ collectives on WeedMaps, watch my 420 reviews and other related shows on WeedMapsTv and win cool glass on WeedFreebies. So as far as I can tell the Co. Dept. of Health might as well grant them their application and put that revenue to work on real issues. http://bit.ly/nzZGEz

CannaCenters
CannaCenters

"The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world." -  Carl Sagan quote on Marijuanahttp://bit.ly/o3Tjs7

High Country Caregiver
High Country Caregiver

Word on the street is these dudes thought that their felony convictions were "expunged"....

Can anyone digress on "expunged" so the rest of us know whether or not we're getting spunged?

Light Rail Tattler
Light Rail Tattler

He's a Subprime predator mortgage broker that expects you to believe his line of bull crap just like so many others did because he wanted to CLOSE the sale and loot the Bank.Expunge means pardon, only the governor or president can do that. Lawyers don't pardon, they seal records, rap sheets and false arrests, NOT CONVICTIONS!  He's a con-man and a liar.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Our post has now been updated to include the owner's explanation about the conviction. Thanks, HCC.

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