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Detroit — The Holy Moly Donut Shop lured cops, but for all the wrong reasons.

The popular shop, where people can customize doughnuts with candy toppings, was a front for a multi-state marijuana ring, which laundered drug money through the doughnut shop, a sham marijuana dispensary next door and a business that fills ATM machines with cash, according to federal prosecutors.

The unusual drug investigation emerged Friday when Holy Moly owner Victor Attisha and two others were indicted in federal court on drug conspiracy, money laundering and other charges. 

Court records and interviews chronicle more than $700,000 seized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and reveal a colorful criminal investigation that illustrates the potential for criminality as Detroit's nascent medical marijuana ordinance takes effect with 75 licensed pot shops across the city.

The indictment was filed one month before Michigan voters will decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana.

“I’d say of all the gin joints to walk into, if they walked into this one, there must be a reason,” said attorney Michael Komorn, president of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association. “More information needs to come out but people should be concerned because if you’re not operating under the rules, this is the kind of thing that can happen.”

A lawyer for Attisha and a DEA spokeswoman declined comment Friday.

Attisha, 40, of Sterling Heights was charged alongside business partners Junior Asmar, 45, of Sterling Heights, and James Shammas, 38, of Shelby Township.

The drug conspiracy started in 2016 when the three men devised a scheme to make and distribute hundreds of pounds of marijuana under the guise of operating a marijuana dispensary that purportedly would comply with state drug laws, prosecutors said.

That sham dispensary was Unified Collective, next door to Holy Moly Donut Shop on Eight Mile, prosecutors said.

The trio had various roles manufacturing, possessing and distributing the marijuana and laundering the drug money, according to the indictment.

The marijuana was grown and cultivated in commercial and residential locations across Metro Detroit and sold throughout the region.

The men also bought hundreds of pounds of marijuana worth more than $1 million from suppliers in California and other locations to sell in Metro Detroit, according to the government.

The drug ring's operations included operations in Farmington Hills, Roseville, Shelby Township and Asmar's bedroom, the doughnut shop and Unified Collective, prosecutors said.

The 24-hour doughnut chain has multiple locations in Detroit: on Eight Mile east of Woodward and on Seven Mile.

Government documents obtained by The News indicate investigators seized more than $39,000 from Holy Moly and Unified Collective on Feb. 14. The rest of the money was seized from a home in Bloomfield Hills, a Hazel Park business and banks.

The doughnut shop and dispensary were used to conceal drug proceeds and hide the source of the income, prosecutors said.

So were ATM businesses, according to the indictment.

Asmar, an employee of A&S ATM on the 24000 block of John R. Road in Hazel Park, periodically filled the machines with cash, including illegal marijuana proceeds, prosecutors said. Attisha is the company's resident agent.

From April 2016 to September 2017, more than $2.3 million was deposited into the ATM company's bank account. A nearly equal amount was withdrawn, prosecutors said

The bank account was controlled by Asmar and Attisha, according to the government. Shammas, meanwhile, listed his profession as "ATM Consulting."

Asmar and Shammas could not be reached for comment Friday.

The men used other people to conceal the true identities of certain real estate and bank accounts, prosecutors said.

The real estate included commercial marijuana operations on Research Drive in Farmington Hills and in Oak Park. And a safety deposit box that held $197,140 was registered under the name of a Shammas relative.

Attisha, the doughnut shop merchant, has a criminal record.

In November 2000, police officers in suburban San Diego, Calif., raided the home of a suspected drug dealer and seized cocaine, and a loaded pistol. Investigators learned that the pistol was among 54 firearms stolen during a smash-and-grab robbery of a gun shop.

The suspected drug dealer cooperated with federal investigators and led them to the person who sold him the stolen firearm.

The suspected drug leader said Attisha sold one weapon at his workplace, a San Diego fish market, where agents seized an illegal rifle, ammunition and “approximately one-half pound of high-grade marijuana,” according to federal court records.

Attisha was indicted in March 2001 on marijuana and weapons charges, convicted of one gun crime and sentenced to 27 months in a federal boot camp.

In 2005, relatives vouched for Attisha’s rehabilitation in hopes he would secure early release from court oversight.

“Victor Attisha has paid his debt to society and has grown into a better man for it . He has made his fresh start and will not disappoint you,” sister Vivian Attisha wrote in a letter to the court.

rsnell@detroitnews.com 

(313) 222-2486

Twitter: @robertsnellnews

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