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June 10, 2024

Former Grafton official federally charged with defrauding cannabis investors

Image | Courtesy of Google Maps Harold D. Donohue Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse in Worcester

A former Town of Grafton official is facing federal charges after being accused of using funds raised from investors in his prospective cannabis company to cover personal expenses and pay down debt related to previous business ventures. 

Bruce Spinney, who served as the chair of the Grafton Select Board from 2014 until August 2019, has been indicted on three charges of wire fraud and one charge of conducting an unlawful monetary transaction, according to a press release issued by Acting U.S. Attorney Joshua Levy’s office on Friday.

The charges stem from an alleged scheme by Spinney to misappropriate money given to him by investors who believed the funds they were providing were being used to fund construction and licensing of two cannabis dispensaries in Grafton and Mendon operating under the name Noble Manna. 

Instead of spending these funds on his proposed cannabis businesses, it’s alleged Spinney used the funds to cover payments on outstanding business loans, cash withdrawals, personal expenses, and payments to debt collectors, including a $27,000 payment on debt related to a equipment and linen rental business Spinney formerly operated. 

Spinney did not immediately respond to an email from WBJ requesting comment on the allegations. He had resigned from his role as select board chair in 2019 to pursue opening Noble Manna in Grafton. 

The Town of Grafton released a statement on its website on Friday acknowledging the allegations and stating the town government is conducting an audit related to the allegations.

“While we do not believe any of these allegations involved the Town of Grafton, we will be conducting an internal audit and review of any transactions which may be relevant to these investigations,” the statement reads. “The Town has no further information on this matter at this time. We will be following the proceedings as information is made available.”

The proposed location of Spinney’s Grafton dispensary, 130 Worcester St., is now the location of Discern'd Cannabis Purveyors. 

Discern'd listed Spinney as the owner on its application paperwork filed to the state’s Cannabis Control Commission in 2021, along with Discern’d CEO Allan Villatoro. The company’s website does not list Spinney as part of the company’s current executive team.

Discern’d is facing two lawsuits in Worcester County Superior Court. One of the lawsuits, filed in February, alleges the company has failed to make payments on a $100,000 loan provided by JJH Investments, LLC, an entity based in Whitinsville. Another lawsuit, filed in October 2021 by Cannapreneur Partners LLC, a cannabis-focused financial firm based in Westborough, accuses the company and Villatoro of failing to provide the company with promised voting securities and corporate waste and fraud.

When contacted in February, Villatoro denied accepting funds from Cannapreneur Partners, insisting the funds were actually received by a former partner in Discern’d.

"Discern’d or I never received, touched, or borrowed funds from [Cannapreneur Partners]. Whatever funds they’re claiming went directly to our former partner, not Discern’d," Villartoro said via an email to WBJ in February.

Noble Manna’s Mendon location is operating under the name Joint Operations. Spinney owned 90.9% of Noble Manna’s Mendon operations when it was issued a license by the CCC in March 2021, with Cannapreneurs owning the remainder of the entity. 

Joint Operations has additional locations in Gardner and Rowley; Spinney is not listed as part of the ownership group for either of these locations, according to CCC documents.
Joint Operations did not immediately respond to a request for comment from WBJ seeking clarification on whether or not Spinney is still involved in the company. A voice message left at a phone number listed on Cannapreneur’s website was not immediately returned.

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