Husband of marijuana MSO Trulieve CEO faces trial on bribery charges

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The husband of marijuana multistate operator Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers is on trial in Florida this week on federal bribery and corruption charges stemming from a four-year investigation of his real estate development activities.

John Thomas “J.T.” Burnette and Rivers were partners in an investment venture before their marriage and Trulieve’s founding, according to the Tallahassee Democrat, and Burnette is a minority owner of a company that provides construction and related services to Trulieve.

Trulieve said in a regulatory filing in 2019 that it concluded that Rivers herself wasn’t a target of the federal corruption investigation, and the potential liability from the case wasn’t great enough to prevent her from continuing as CEO.

Rivers emphasized to MJBizDaily in early 2020 that Trulieve had been “fully transparent and had full disclosure” on the matter.

An equity analyst for Stifel GMP in Canada wrote at the time that while he believed Trulieve had followed proper disclosure requirements, the transactions involving Burnette “are admittedly not our favorite company attribute.”

In its audited annual financial report in March, Trulieve disclosed that it made property and equipment purchases totaling $96.7 million in 2020 from a company that includes Burnette as minority owner. That compared to purchases of $46.4 million in 2019 and $12.1 million in 2018.

The unidentified company was described in the filing as being responsible for the construction of Trulieve’s cultivation and processing facilities, including providing labor, materials and equipment.

“The use of the supplier was reviewed and approved by the independent members of the company’s board of directors,” according to the regulatory filing, “and all invoices of the supplier are reviewed by the office of the company’s (Trulieve’s) general counsel.”

The regulatory filing didn’t mention Burnette’s legal problems.

Trulieve didn’t immediately respond to MJBizDaily‘s request for comment Monday.

– Jeff Smith