Nine Oh Two Oh Whoa
California’s Pot Queen Raided Just Before State Legalizes It
From unlicensed lipo to high-volume hydro, a California Woman gives Florida Man a run for his money.
Before she became a pot “queen pin,” Stephanie Smith drove a Lincoln Navigator fueled with human fat collected at her physician boyfriend’s liposuction clinic in Beverly Hills.
“Dr. Lipo 90210,” the boyfriend, Dr. Craig Alan Bittner, called himself in ads that promised: “Lose over one gallon of fat with liposculpture.”
He reported in a blog on lipodiesel.com that “My patients universally love the idea of converting their unwanted fat into fuel. Not only do they get to lose their love handles or chubby belly, but they get to take part in saving the Earth.”
Bittner boasted that his Rodeo Drive clinic handled 6,000 patients a year. The number surprised another Beverly Hills doctor, who said that the surgery is more challenging to perform than most people imagine and he himself could do only one day.
Bittner’s high volume clinic shuttered in 2008 after several woman filed complaints that they had been disfigured when their surgery was conducted not by Bittner, but by Smith as well as an uncertified assistant who allegedly turned up the volume of the TV to drown out the patients' screams.
Bittner lost his medical license and filed for bankruptcy. He reported in court papers that he was more than $40 million in debt and had essentially no declared assets, even though his clinic earned as much as $6 million in a year.
Smith was reportedly adjudged guilty of practicing medicine without a license. She was sentenced in 2013 to 36 months probation.
But Smith now drives a battery-powered $79,500 Tesla Model X90D SUV, as befits the “queen pin” said by police to operate what may be the biggest indoor marijuana growing operation in California history.
The pot business raked in millions of dollars a month, as estimated by the cops who raided a walled warehouse they termed a “pot fortress” as well as a number of similar facilities on two separate days in San Bernardino last month. One building, an old phone company facility, is on the same block as the San Bernardino police headquarters.
But, even as cops seized more than 35,000 plants—in excess of 14 tons of pot—and searched Smith’s home, California was poised to legalize the recreational sale of marijuana on Jan. 1.
Legalization Day came along with New Year’s Day and the cops have not actually arrested Smith. San Bernardino Police Lt. Mike Madden insisted to The Daily Beast that, if nothing else, Smith remains subject to tax and licensing ordinances that govern even legal businesses.
“Be it pot or soda pop,” he noted.
Smith, on her part, has denounced the police raids as a grossly disproportionate response. She suggested in a statement that she is less a drug lord than simply a landlord for entrepreneurs seeking to cash in on the post-prohibition pot business.
“As a mother of 5 young children, I am disappointed that I must explain that these military style raids are the way City leaders handle zoning violation,” she said. “Just as unfortunate is the situation for the tenants in my buildings who had spent tens of thousands of dollars on applications for licensure in a properly zoned facility and were ready to begin paying taxes to the State and local government on January 1, 2018.”
Police believe that Smith had a direct hand in growing and marketing the stuff. They also say that they had observed armed security guards posted at some of the properties during a two-month investigation triggered by odor complaints from neighbors. The cops had then noted that one of the buildings racked up a $67,000 electric bill.
A public records check shows that prior to seeking to score big with liposuction, Smith and Bittner sought to score big with AmeriScan—a chain of drop-in storefronts offering peace of mind with full-body MRI scans. Smith reportedly masterminded the marketing.
“Call 1-866-4 MY SCAN,” the signs read. “Now Open! No Doctor’s Referral Needed.”
As reported by CNN, testimonials and videos and brochures trumpeted: “My full body scan was the best gift my wife ever gave me… Detect over 100 life-threatening diseases in less than 10 minutes… [AmeriScan will] make you the captain of your health care-team.”
All too many people wanted a doctor to be the captain of their health care team, and the scans were widely criticized as medically unnecessary. The business collapsed, leaving the huge debt that followed Bittner as he became Dr. Lipo 90210 and that perhaps spurred his push for high volume.
Public records further suggest that Smith—who legally changed her name post from Stephanie Darcy after the liposuction mess—embarked on the marijuana business in 2015. That was when the various limited liability companies she founded came to include Bubba Likes Tortillas LLC.
Bubba also seems to like pot in a big way, for the company’s primary holding appears to be the warehouse at 4010 Georgia Boulevard in San Bernardino, where police reported finding more than 25,000 marijuana plants in a Dec. 19 raid.
“It’s a very significant-sized operation,” Madden told the press, noting that it had been watched over by two uniformed security guards.
Smith also listed herself in public records as the “trustee” of the ”Lovely Family Living Trust,” whose business is described in public records as “Lessors of real estate (including mini warehouses & self-storage units).”
As of Tuesday, Smith had not been arrested. She also had not yet secured a permit to grow and sell pot in San Bernardino. The police continued to be strongly of the opinion that legalization of pot only changed one of the laws, not all of them. The ordinances governing legal businesses remained.
“These people think they are above the rules,” Madden opined.
Neither Smith nor Bittner could not be reached for comment beyond her statement. Two Tesla SUVs—perhaps his and hers—have been seen parked outside the Pacific Palisades home that they apparently share. The cars use not even an ounce of human lipo fat.