The Corrupt Oakland Official Who Wanted to be a Cannabis Kingpin

Thomas Espinosa is accused of taking bribes and extorting property owners in his job as a city building inspector. In his spare time, he was assembling a cannabis real estate empire.


Thomas Espinosa noticed that there was something about the property at 4136 Rifle Lane in the Oakland hills that didn’t match city records. Behind a single-family home was a small backyard cottage that the owner never obtained permits to build. So Espinosa opened a case file with the city for unpermitted construction.

It was November 2013, and it was one of the first instances in which investigators from Oakland’s Public Ethics Commission concluded that Espinosa had been involved in wrongdoing. Espinosa may have previously accepted bribes or kickbacks or illegally mixed his personal contracting business with his work for the city, but under Oakland’s Government Ethics Act, PEC investigators don’t have the authority to examine his earlier dealings.

The case that Espinosa filed for 4136 Rifle Lane remained open until February 2016 when a prospective homebuyer noticed it and called Espinosa for details. According to PEC investigators, Espinosa visited the property again and warned the buyer of “significant potential fines.” As a result, the buyer backed out of the sale.

That same month, according to PEC investigators, the broker who was trying to sell the house, Bill Charman of Gimme Shelter, Inc., agreed to meet with Espinosa outside of Oakland City Hall to discuss the problem. It’s unclear what exactly Charman expected of this meeting, but what Espinosa allegedly proposed was simple: a bribe.

Espinosa told Charman to write him a $1,500 personal check. According to PEC investigators, Charman did just that, and Espinosa deposited the money into his personal bank account.

Then, Espinosa went into the planning and building department’s computer system and waived the building code violation fees and a required field check. He then allowed Charman to obtain over-the-counter permits for additional work that needed to be done at the house. The next day, Espinosa closed the unpermitted construction case.

Charman didn’t respond to an email from the Express seeking comment for this story, but according to city records, a new code enforcement case at the Rifle Lane house was reopened this month because the inspections that Espinosa conducted at the property after Charman allegedly paid him off might have been “improper.”

The alleged payoff at Rifle Lane was one of dozens of instances of illegal wrongdoing that PEC investigators have alleged against Espinosa. The two-year investigation, led by Milad Dalju, the chief inspector of the PEC, uncovered more than 47 alleged violations of Oakland’s government ethics rules by Espinosa. Most of the charges involve alleged bribes Espinosa took from property owners to fast-track their permits or improper private business deals with a landlord whose buildings he’d also worked on as a city inspector. Espinosa now faces fines in excess of $1 million if the Public Ethics Commission sustains the case.

And the case is still expanding. “Since these allegations were published a week ago, we’ve received additional allegations against Thomas Espinosa,” Dalju told the ethics commission on Nov. 5.

One of the additional cases not detailed in the PEC’s allegations against Espinosa involves an alleged payoff and the red-tagging of a live-work loft in West Oakland that resulted in seven families being evicted from their homes in 2016. Residents of the building and city officials believe Espinosa colluded with the building’s landlord to displace the families.

The FBI has also been investigating Espinosa. And the PEC is examining the activities of another city code enforcement officer.

But whatever Espinosa did on the job with the city is only part of the story. For the past several years, Espinosa has also operated a large cannabis real estate company that at one point controlled up to half-a-million square feet of industrial space in Oakland and Sacramento, and possibly other cities. According to sources with first-hand knowledge of Espinosa’s dealings, as well as real estate and court records, at the same time in 2016 he was being pushed out of the city by his superiors who suspected him of corruption, Espinosa was also boldly attempting to become a kingpin of “green zone” properties. And he was allegedly drawing on his city job and contacts to do it, while buying expensive gifts and trinkets for his new bride.

But Espinosa’s grandiose dreams of fortune ultimately came crashing down. His business partners, including a network of Chinese cannabis investors, have sued him, alleging that he defrauded them out of millions of dollars. And last summer, he went bankrupt.

Darker allegations have also surfaced against him. An anonymous letter sent to multiple city officials in October 2016 alleged that Espinosa was not only using city resources to pursue his fortune in cannabis real estate but was also involved in the “sex trafficking and exploitation of women and girls.”

During a recent phone interview with the Express, Espinosa acknowledged his involvement in the cannabis industry, but he maintained his innocence in the face of multiple criminal accusations and ethics violations. He blamed the city for driving him to quit and the FBI for financially ruining him.

“These guys took me through complete hell,” he said about the city. “I had a million-dollar business. They had the FBI following me and every
person I did business with, so I had to file for bankruptcy recently.”

Espinosa said he’s been scapegoated for the building inspection division, a city department that has a history of corruption and gross mismanagement. “I’m the guy they kicked out,” he said.




True enough, he was kicked out. But the way he was pushed out of the city quietly, and the tangle of crimes he’s accused of, raises questions about who else inside City Hall might have acted with Espinosa, or who looked the other way for years while he exploited his position as a code enforcement officer.



In 2005
, when he was first hired as a specialty combination inspector in the building services division, Espinosa roamed Oakland in search of code violations and blight. In this role, he played a part in some of the building services division’s previous scandals and controversies.

One such controversy began in 2009 when Espinosa was driving around Fruitvale looking for something he could make a case out of. He noticed a triplex on Galindo Street in Fruitvale where there were weeds growing amid the front hedges. He stopped, took some pictures, and issued a notice to abate, mailing it to the property’s owner, Thomas Lippman.

Lippman subsequently cut the weeds, but then he received a second notice to abate a week later. Confident he’d addressed the problem, Lippman contacted another inspector who came out, took a look, and closed the cases.

Nevertheless, Lippman got a $1,394 fine in the mail. The city also initiated the process of hiring a contractor to abate the problem, which would cost even more.

Frustrated, Lippman drove downtown to meet with Espinosa. Espinosa presented Lippman with a picture of a single weed growing from a crack in the pavement behind the apartment building, according to court records. Espinosa also informed Lippman that he’d have to pay $2,395 to clear the cases, even if he wanted to file an appeal.

Lippman complained all the way to the top of the building services division, but to no avail. Later, several other code enforcement officers conducted another inspection of his building and found additional violations and repairs that had been done without the proper building permits. They issued another notice of violation. Lippman’s fines ultimately grew to about $10,000, an excessive figure for some uncut weeds and minor unpermitted construction.

Unable to find a single person in the entire building services division who he felt would give him a fair hearing, Lippman asked for an appeal before a neutral hearing officer. The hearing was held in June 2012, but in yet another twist that Lippman felt was rigged, the “neutral” hearing officer turned out to be an attorney employed by the city and appointed by the building services division. Unsurprisingly, Lippman lost.

So, he sued. His case went all the way to the California Supreme Court, and just this year, he finally won, forcing the city to reform its appeals process. But he might have never pushed so far had it not been for the fact that another government watchdog had intervened earlier and exposed the building services division’s tangle of conflicts and corruption.

In 2010, the Alameda County Civil Grand Jury received dozens of complaints from angry tenants, landlords, and homeowners about Oakland’s building services. It was the second time in roughly a decade that the grand jury was asked to investigate the city department and its inspectors. In 1999, a similar spate of complaints led the grand jury to issue a highly critical report about Oakland’s poorly run code enforcement system.

What grand jurors found on their second examination in 2010 was an agency still suffering from badly trained inspectors who applied inconsistent criteria to cases and made seemingly arbitrary decisions about whether to issue fines. The grand jury observed that inspectors were all too ready to levy costly abatement orders and notices of violation, often based on dubious evidence. They found a fundamentally unfair appeals process and noted that property owners feared speaking up because of the division’s reputation for retaliation.

The agency also did a poor job of keeping records, and the city even failed to turn over documents to the grand jury, despite being subpoenaed. Often, noted the grand jury, code enforcement officers issued notices of violation that were never sent to the current property owner, resulting in compounding fines and exorbitant liens filed on homes and apartment buildings.

And the grand jury exposed corruption. A handful of private contractors hired by the building services division — sometimes hand-picked by inspectors in the field — were receiving lucrative abatement contracts. “The Grand Jury consistently heard that one contractor had inappropriate access to the office of the former inspection manager,” noted the investigators’ final report, issued in 2011. “This particular contractor appeared to receive a disproportionately large percentage of contracts” and would often bid low and later submit change orders to increase their payout.

The contractor was Arthur Young, the former brother in law and close friend of Antoinette Renwick, the inspection services manager for the building services division. Not only was Renwick steering lucrative contracts to Young, she also accepted a $50,000 loan from Young and lived in a property that he owned, none of which she ever disclosed. In an understatement, the grand jury said this all “contributed to a perception of impropriety.”

In 2013, the state Fair Political Practices Commission fined Renwick $6,500 for steering contracts to Young and hiding these deals. Under a cloud of suspicion, Renwick quit in 2010.

Since it was published seven years ago, the grand jury report has become Exhibit A for landlords and tenants who have suffered abuse at the hands of Oakland’s code enforcement officers. It continues to confirm suspicions that some inspectors are corrupt and that the city’s code enforcement system needs to be reformed.


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Since 2011, Oakland city council members, mayors, the city attorney, and city administrators have promised to address the severe management problems the grand jury exposed and to root out corruption. But ultimately, opportunities for bribery and collusions remained. Apparently, so did corrupt employees. While Renwick was forced out, Thomas Espinosa, one of her underlings, stayed on.



If what the Public Ethics Commission’s investigators allege about Espinosa is true, then not much has changed in Oakland’s building services division since the scandal of 2011. Some inspectors continue to use their positions of authority to enrich themselves at the expense of the public.

Still, the timeline of misconduct pieced together by Dalju and his investigators is jaw-dropping. In addition to the alleged bribery case involving the Rifle Lane property, PEC investigators say Espinosa accepted $24,600 from Vivian Tang, who hired Espinosa to repair a property she owned on Lawlor Street in East Oakland. Espinosa improperly inspected his own work and signed off on it in the city’s permit system, investigators alleged.

In another similar case uncovered by PEC staff, property owner Ana Siu paid Espinosa $66,277 for general contracting work related to the abatement of several code violations while he was also inspecting her single-family home in Temescal in his official capacity.

And investigators say that from February to May 2016, Espinosa allegedly coerced Alexandre Machado to pay him $12,850 to clear enforcement cases, including stop-work orders, on an Oakland hills home that Machado was renovating for resale.

In an interview with the Express, Espinosa said he was just trying to help people navigate a needlessly bureaucratic system. “I was not a part of the problem,” he said. “I was a part of the city, of the people. I would help them. Somebody would call me and say they had a problem or a question, and I would look in the record and give them information.”

Asked to respond to the specific allegations against him in the PEC’s report, Espinosa accused several of his bosses and colleagues of misconduct. “They have one guy there who is horrible, who has been screwing them over for a long time,” he said about another code enforcement officer. He declined to name the person, however.

Espinosa acknowledged that he has his own private business interests, but he said, “what other moneys [deals] I did with people didn’t have anything to do with city business.”

The PEC’s investigation concluded otherwise.

The most glaring example involved $176,000 in payments made by Elizabeth Williams, a West Oakland landlord, to Espinosa for working as a contractor on her properties. Williams was previously investigated by the city attorney for operating substandard and dangerous rental housing, and in 2009 the city obtained an injunction against her, requiring that she make safety improvements. Espinosa was assigned by building services as the inspector to ensure she reached compliance, but according to the PEC, he saw it as a way to personally enrich himself. He allegedly carried out improper and incomplete inspections on his own work and closed various code enforcement cases against Williams after she paid him bribes. Williams also hired Espinosa as a contractor to carry out work at her properties, despite the obvious conflict of interest. As with all of his other source of income, including outside contracting and alleged bribes, Espinosa never reported receiving this money on his mandatory financial disclosure forms. In fact, he simply stopped filing the forms in 2015.

Another building inspector, Anthony Harbaugh appears to have helped Espinosa either extort Williams, or accept bribes from her. (The Express was unable to reach Williams for comment, and it’s unclear whether she knew her payments to Espinosa were improper or if they were coerced or voluntary.)

According to PEC investigators, Harbaugh conducted several inspections of Williams’ rentals to check on work and permits that Espinosa had facilitated. Harbaugh also did the final inspections for the house on Rifle Lane. Other unnamed inspectors also appear to have played roles in issuing violations and clearing cases in which Espinosa was allegedly paid bribes or hired as a contractor.

Harbaugh didn’t respond to emails and telephone calls seeking comment for this report, but his city telephone extension still forwards to his voicemail. The city administrator’s office didn’t respond to questions about whether Harbaugh is still employed. But according to PEC investigators, Harbaugh is now also under investigation, as first reported by the Express on its website.

The PEC’s report on Espinosa isn’t the first time that city officials noticed Espinosa was mixing his personal business with his official city duties and misusing city resources. In 2015, Espinosa’s supervisor Ed Labayog and Marie Taylor reprimanded him for using office resources and city time to print numerous emails on several occasions that were related to his “travel arrangements, hotel reservations and personal property information.” He also ran up the bill on his city-issued cellphone by hundreds of dollars by allegedly making calls related to his personal business, and his supervisors suspected him on multiple occasions of lying to them about these matters.

By the time Espinosa was forced out of his city job in November 2016, he was already deeply embedded in Northern California’s cannabis industry carving out a role for himself as a real estate broker with the contacts in government to quickly obtain building permits and cannabis licenses. At least that was what he promised the landlords he was leasing warehouse space from, as well as the mostly Chinese cannabis growers he recruited.



Real estate records and court documents show that in 2016, Espinosa controlled at least two large warehouse spaces in Oakland and another large warehouse in Sacramento. It’s unclear how much Oakland city officials knew about Espinosa’s cannabis ventures, but in October of that year, an anonymous tipster sent a letter to Mayor Libby Schaaf, City Attorney Barbara Parker, then-Interim Planning and Building Director Darin Ranelletti, and the Public Ethics Commission warning them about Espinosa.


The tipster’s letter alleged that Espinosa was “using city time, connections and resources to facilitate the establishment of numerous marijuana dispensary businesses, and brokering deals to lease properties for marijuana dispensaries, all of which Mr. Espinosa is profiting from greatly.”

The tipster further alleged that other city officials were working with Espinosa to set up lucrative cannabis businesses, but the letter writer didn’t name anyone else.

The letter’s author also claimed that Espinosa is somehow linked to a “club” in South San Francisco “where Asian women will come into the private rooms and do whatever is negotiated and paid for,” and that some of these women were “slaves from China.”

The Public Ethics Commission confirmed to the Express that it received a copy of the letter in 2016, around the same time the agency opened its investigation into Espinosa. The mayor’s office said it could not find a copy of the letter, however.

While it’s unclear whether the sex slave allegations have any merit, public records confirm the letter writer’s allegations about Espinosa’s efforts to control real estate in areas zoned for cannabis production.

In fall 2016, Espinosa leased approximately 75,000 square feet in a warehouse owned by Brenden McEntee on Frederick Street Oakland’s Jingletown. McEntee previously used the warehouse for his organic flour business, but when Oakland created its geographic “green zones,” where cannabis cultivation and other marijuana businesses are permitted, the value of the warehouse increased dramatically.

“I ended up downsizing my business, and I moved it to San Leandro in a smaller space,” said McEntee in an interview. “The property in Oakland is more valuable because of the green phenomenon.”

McEntee said two real estate brokers connected him with Espinosa and that he rented the warehouse to Espinosa for several months before evicting him in spring 2017. “I feel extremely fortunate that my involvement was brief, and maybe I was lucky I was able to move quickly and disassociate myself from Espinosa,” said McEntee about the ill-fated deal.

According to lease documents, the brokers who connected Espinosa to McEntee were Richard Sutherland of the Sutherland Company and Jay Hagglund of Cushman and Wakefield. In addition to connecting Espinosa with McEntee, Hagglund also leased part of a building that he owned on 37th Avenue near I-880 to Espinosa’s company, D&G Investment Development.

Sutherland didn’t respond to a phone call and email from the Express, but Hagglund wrote in an email to the newspaper that he has since terminated his 37th Avenue lease with Espinosa. “He just seemed to be getting more unstable at the end with all his failures at all his locations,” wrote Hagglund.

At McEntee’s Frederick Street warehouse, Espinosa brought in a group of Chinese investors with plans of setting up an enormous cannabis grow operation. But according to court records, Espinosa pocketed almost $1 million in payments from the investors and then failed to deliver on his promises.

The investors were led by ZhongJian Enterprises of Fremont. On Dec. 29, 2016, Espinosa signed a sublease agreement with Qi Chen, a representative of ZhongJian. Under the terms of the deal, Espinosa’s D&G Investment Development company would be paid $815,000 extra to upgrade the building’s electrical system and completely remodel the interior so that it would be suitable for growing cannabis. Furthermore, according to the lawsuit, Espinosa promised to secure four cannabis cultivation permits from the city of Oakland and the state in exchange for a payment of $680,000 from ZhongJian.

But the deal collapsed. In August 2017, ZhongJian filed a lawsuit asserting that Espinosa broke his contract and made off with $935,000.

Espinosa responded to ZhongJian’s lawsuit in October 2017 asserting in a court filing that he’d done everything required under the contract, including finishing the PG&E upgrade, and that ZhongJian’s investors had failed to provide him with enough money to complete other parts of the build out.

Espinosa also alleged that the investors tried to pay him to bribe various officials to fast-track the project. “Two members [of ZhongJian], Ricky and Kai […] tried to hire me to bribe city officials and PG&E employees,” wrote Espinosa in his official response to the lawsuit.

According to city records, no person or company associated with the Frederick Street warehouse applied for a cannabis cultivation license until after Espinosa had been evicted by McEntee in May 2017.

The Express repeatedly, but unsuccessfully tried contacting Guangming Zhang and Qi Chen, two of the individuals behind the cannabis company ZhongJian. Zhang and Chen’s attorney James Cai didn’t return two phone calls and an email seeking comment.

But McEntee said some of the same cannabis growers are still moving ahead with new leases on the property. In October, a company called ZJ Enterprises applied for cannabis cultivation permits with the city. Guangming Zhang is the president of ZJ Enterprises.

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At the same time Espinosa was being evicted from the Frederick Street warehouse, he was busy signing up another cannabis grower for a warehouse he had taken over in a north Sacramento industrial park. In May 2017, Espinosa signed a lease with Jue Wang for approximately 15,000 square feet of space at a price of $30,000 a month. Wang ran a cannabis cultivation company called Huamei, Inc., which translates into English as “gorgeous” and according to city of Sacramento records was leasing space in other warehouses for similar purposes.

But according to a lawsuit filed by Wang in August 2017, Espinosa lost control of the warehouse and was unable to hand over the keys and permits. Wang alleges his company paid a total of $86,448 in rent plus a security deposit but got nothing in return.

Attempts to reach Wang were unsuccessful. Wang’s attorney Patricia Wolfe declined to comment. The owner of the warehouse, Todd Sperber, also declined to comment because he’s been named in the lawsuit filed by Wang against Espinosa.

Back in Oakland, Espinosa was sued again in another collapsed cannabis deal. According to court records, in March 2017, Espinosa recruited yet another grower to rent a space in a warehouse located at 301 Adeline St. He also allegedly promised the grower, Diane Huang, that he could secure the necessary state and local permits to get the grow operation up and running in exchange for $250,000.

According to Huang, she gave Espinosa a quarter-million dollars, but then he suddenly disappeared. Huang later discovered that 301 Adeline St. doesn’t exist. She filed a lawsuit against Espinosa in August 2017 alleging fraud.



Michael Taylor is one of the additional alleged victims whose encounter with Espinosa wasn’t documented in the PEC’s corruption probe.

Taylor used to live in the Union Bakery building at 661 27th St. in West Oakland, but in April 2016, Espinosa conducted a supposedly random inspection and deemed the live/work space “unsafe.” He red-tagged it and ordered the tenants to vacate immediately or be arrested. Seven households were forcibly displaced.

Taylor believes his landlord Patrick MacIntyre paid Espinosa to red tag the building in order to accomplish what seven previously attempted eviction lawsuits hadn’t: emptying renters from a valuable space in a gentrifying neighborhood.

Officials in Oakland’s planning and building department also think MacIntyre and Espinosa colluded. In November 2016, Espinosa’s superiors notified him that he was about to be fired. Laying out a damning case in a six-page, single-spaced letter, Darin Ranelletti, then the interim director of Oakland’s Planning and Building Department, wrote “these facts strongly suggest collusion with the owner and that your inspection of the 27th Street building was outside the scope of your job as a City employee and quite possibly for personal gain.”

“Had your action gone undiscovered, you would have caused the indefinite displacement of multiple families,” concluded Ranelletti.

But even though city officials discovered Espinosa’s alleged plot, the tenants were still indefinitely displaced.

The tenants and their attorney Kevin Greenquist also didn’t find out about the city’s investigation of Espinosa and its findings that he likely colluded with MacIntyre until a year later when Espinosa’s personnel file was obtained by San Francisco Chronicle reporter Kimberly Veklerov, who requested it under the Public Records Act. Veklerov’s story in early 2018 was the first public mention of the episode.

Meanwhile, Taylor and the other tenants’ court battle with MacIntyre has proceeded at a snail’s pace. And it has progressed as though the red-tagging of the Union Bakery was a legitimate government enforcement action. For example, one of the judges who previously oversaw the case actually relied on a declaration from Espinosa supporting MacIntyre that, according to Oakland officials, “contained negative information” about the building’s condition. Espinosa, however, hadn’t included this information — which damaged the tenants’ case — in his official reports he filed with the city. In other words, Espinosa’s court declaration likely contained false information.

Greenquist told the Express that he’s hesitant to comment about the case because it’s likely headed to trial. But he criticized the city not fully disclosing Espinosa’s alleged collusion with the landlord.

“I would be more harshly prosecuted for stealing a candy bar from a 7-11 than this landlord has been for bribing a city official,” said Greenquist. “And the city knew about what happened all along, and yet they allowed the tenants of this building to be wrongfully displaced.”

MacIntyre’s attorney David Sternfeld declined to be interviewed, but he wrote in an email that “Mr. MacIntyre continues to maintain that he has done nothing illegal concerning his ownership of the building at issue in the litigation. He has not colluded with Mr. Espinoza [sic] or anyone else at any time.”

A jury won’t decide whether Espinosa and MacIntyre colluded unless it’s argued at trial next year in the eviction and counter-eviction lawsuit. And a final decision about whether or not Espinosa engaged in the spree of corruption outlined in the PEC’s recent report won’t be made until his case is heard before the state Office of Administrative Hearings, also possibly next year.

Espinosa’s behavior also has caught the attention of the FBI. In October 2017, a federal criminal grand jury subpoenaed the city of Oakland for Espinosa’s employment records. The FBI won’t say whether their investigation of Espinosa is still underway, or if they’re looking into other city officials or players in the cannabis industry linked to Espinosa.



In July 2018, Espinosa filed for bankruptcy. Among his listed debts is the rent he still owes to McEntee for the Frederick Street warehouse in Oakland, along with potential judgements in six lawsuits filed against him by cannabis investors and others alleging fraud and breach of contract. He also included the $1 million in “administrative penalties” that he’s facing before the Public Ethics Commission.

The only property Espinosa owns now, according to his bankruptcy petition, is his car, $50 worth of clothing, another $50 in cash, plus his cellphone. In short, he’s lost virtually everything.

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Several of the cannabis investors suing him in civil court, including ZhongJian and Wong, have also intervened in his bankruptcy case arguing that Espinosa is trying to absolve himself not of debts, but of “fraudulent conduct.”

Espinosa’s marriage has also unraveled. His wife, Yanyi Chen, whom he married in December 2016, filed for divorce in May 2018. The filing came shortly after Espinosa and Chen were evicted from their apartment in San Mateo. According to court records, after they wed, Espinosa gave Chen a $41,000 Tiffany ring, a $50,000 Cartier watch, and brand new Tesla Model S6 worth $85,000. Espinosa also claimed in a court filing in the divorce case that Chen removed $700,000 from a safe he maintained at an undisclosed location. Chen didn’t return a phone call seeking comment for this report.

Asked what he thinks caused his downfall, Espinosa blamed city politics concerning live/work housing. He claims he was unfairly punished for red tagging the Union Bakery in 2016 and pursuing other enforcement cases too aggressively.

Despite evidence he colluded with MacIntyre to red tag the Union Bakery, Espinosa maintains he did it to prevent harm from coming to the tenants. In response, he said his supervisors bowed to political pressures from tenants activists and elected officials, and so they reversed his decision.

“I was definitely the scapegoat. I got rooted out because I cited a building just like the one that burned down,” he said, referring to the Ghost Ship fire in which 36 people died during a December 2016 party.

Espinosa intends to defend himself against the PEC’s case. He’s also contesting the multiple lawsuits brought against him by cannabis investors. And he blames the FBI for allegedly spooking his business partners.

“I had 500,000 square feet leased in several buildings — Oakland, Sacramento, all over,” he boasted. “I ran into financial problems because they made it so hard for me. Every one of my customers then went to. They sent the FBI, and all these people thought, ‘Wow, what’s going on?'”

The cannabis investors who tried leasing property from Espinosa don’t appear to agree with this take, however. None of them mentioned the FBI in the lawsuits they’ve filed, and several people involved in real estate deals with Espinosa who spoke to the Express said they were not aware that the FBI was watching him.

Bitterly, Espinosa declined to say anything more about the city’s troubled building services division for which he worked for 13 years. “Here’s the deal,” he said, “I’m not willing to give my life to taking down the city. They have to organize and get right somehow. “I just don’t want to get into it.”

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