Ex-Packard Plant owner arraigned on drug charges

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Making a federal court appearance wearing a breathing machine, controversial real estate investor Romel Casab was arraigned Thursday afternoon on charges of marijuana distribution, maintaining a drug facility in Romulus and firearms charges.

Casab, a former owner of the Packard Plant in Detroit, was indicted by a grand jury which alleges he conspired to sell marijuana from February 2009 until May 2011. He also was indicted on two firearm charges and accused of maintaining a drug facility at 29100 Northline Road in Romulus.

The indictment says in April 2011, federal agents found in the facility marijuana growing equipment, irrigation tubs, temperature and humidity controls, ballasts, grow lights and more than 40 kilograms of a mixture substance containing marijuana and 374 marijuana plants.

It also alleges that Casab collected $20,000 in rent payments from people who were growing marijuana at the facility.

Casab, a convicted felon, is also charged with illegally possessing a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver and a 9mm caliber “Lady Smith” semi-automatic pistol.

Standing before U.S. Magistrate Anthony Patti, Casab answered yes as to whether he understood the charges but waived their formal reading and stood mute.

Casab, 54, faces up to 20 years in prison on the charges and $8 million in fines. He was released on a $10,000 unsecured bond and ordered to surrender his passport and not possess any firearms at home or on his person.

In arguing for his release, attorney Michael A. Rataj said Casab has a list of medications he must take for a series of medical problems. Ratai would not be specific outside court other to say this client has 20 percent breathing capacity.

Caseb left court without answering questions by reporters. Rataj said the charges against his client are false.

“There is no basis to them. It’s fiction and I’m going to show that in court,” he said.

Five years ago, federal drug agents raided Casab’s home in Commerce Township and a medical marijuana dispensary he owned in Novi.

Those searches were part of a wide-ranging operation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which dispatched agents in coordinated raids of homes, two medical-marijuana facilities, a sports bar and strip club in Detroit, Novi, Commerce Township and Walled Lake.

Casab made headlines in 2010 when he sued a local art gallery that removed a mural at the plant reportedly painted by famed graffiti artist Banksy.

JChambers@detroitnews.com