JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Columbia man who is a lobbyist for drug reform policies and has donated more than $25,000 to Missouri political campaigns is among nine people indicted in an alleged marijuana distribution scheme.
Eapen Thampy, 35, was indicted by a grand jury Thursday on felony charges of marijuana distribution and marijuana possession. He appeared in federal court Monday but didn't enter a plea. A detention hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.
Thampy lobbies for 14 groups in Jefferson City, several of which are related to the state's new cannabis industry. Most of his political contributions have been to Republicans but he has also donated to some Democrats, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported .
Prosecutors say Thampy and his co-conspirators schemed to ship large amounts of marijuana from Oregon to mid-Missouri between January 2015 and September 2018.
Thampy's Kansas City attorney, Ross C. Nigro Jr., did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Thampy first registered as a lobbyist with the Missouri Ethics Commission in January 2015. Since 2015, Thampy has donated $26,507 to Missouri candidates, party accounts and causes, according to Missouri Ethics Commission records.
In 2016, he donated $2,000 to former Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder's campaign for governor. Kinder said Thampy supported him because he favored legalizing medical marijuana.
"I would say that he is a friend," Kinder said. "I was shocked to read this news today."
Thampy has been photographed with several politicians, including Republican U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, Attorney General Eric Schmitt and former Gov. Eric Greitens.
Kinder said he had "no reason" to believe in 2016 that campaign contributions associated with Thampy could be traced to the illegal drug trade.
"You stay away from people for whom the red flags are obvious," Kinder said. "They were not obvious at this time."
Federal authorities have been investigating the drug distribution scheme since Augustus Roberts of Columbia was killed in a drug-related homicide at his home in December 2017.
The indictment said one of the alleged conspirators, Tamra Johnson, laundered $1,000 in drug money on Sept. 26, 2016, by contributing it to Better Way Missouri, a political action committee Thampy led at the time, according to Missouri Ethics Commission records. That is the only drug money-related donation to a political account that is mentioned in the indictment.
Elizabeth Ziegler, executive director of the Missouri Ethics Commission, said Missouri campaign finance laws don't address campaigns receiving money possibly connected with drug transactions. The laws also don't prevent people convicted of drug crimes from lobbying.