Pineau Levels Extortion Claims Against Jennings, Brooks in Civil Suit Amid Marijuana Shop Legal Battle

Caroline Pineau poses outside her proposed Haverhill marijuana dispensary Stem at 124 Washington St. (Jay Saulnier file photograph for WHAV News.)

The battle over Caroline Pineau’s Haverhill marijuana shop Stem has officially become a he said-she said scenario, with Pineau filing a suit in civil court leveling extortion and harassment on the part of Lloyd Jennings and J. Bradford Brooks, two of the three the locals bent on delaying the opening of her downtown store.

In court documents and police reports obtained by WHAV, Pineau alleges intimidation on the part of Realtor Brooks and contractor Jennings stemming from the ownership of the back deck of the building behind her proposed Stem marijuana shop. Pineau owns the deck at 124 Washington St., while Jennings and Brooks own the deck at 128 Washington St. There is an estimated foot separating the two decks.

Filing a civil claim in Essex Superior Court June 5, Pineau’s attorney Thomas MacMillan argued Jennings and Brooks “have engaged in a pattern and practice of threatening, extorting, intimidating and/or suing a business neighbor and applicant for their own financial gain.”

The decks owned by Jennings and Brooks (left) and Pineau (right). (WHAV News photograph)

According to a police report filed by Pineau April 5, Jennings and Brooks claim Pineau owes them $30,000 for the deck after purchasing the building from previous owners Sons of Italy in October 2018. Pineau declined to pay $30,000 and countered with a lower offer, which Jennings and Brooks did not accept.

Repeated attempts by Pineau and her legal counsel to reach an agreement failed. According to Pineau’s conversation with Haverhill Police Officer Kevin Portnoy, Jennings “threatened to fight them every step of the way and slow down the opening of her business.” At one meeting, Pineau was allegedly met with a $50,000 verbal demand from the pair, with monetary demands going as high as $75,000, she told police.

The demands began shortly after she purchased the building, according to court documents.

Within two weeks of the purchase being finalized, Brooks threatened Pineau, MacMillan alleged in the court filing. “He said ‘Well, you better bet me and my partner are going to get our money back from the deck we built, which is $30,000, and make sure you go through the same hell with the city that we did,’” MacMillan argued.

Jennings also “threatened to burn down the deck” at Pineau’s proposed shop, MacMillan said.

The claims come on the heels of a suit brought by Jennings, Brooks and a third plaintiff, Mark’s Deli owner and City Council hopeful Stavros Dimakis, that seeks to delay Stem’s special permit hearing on June 18. The trio initially filed suit in Land Court to contest the validity of Pineau’s zoning, but the case was transferred to federal court, where the men plan to argue the federal criminality of marijuana in the U.S. District Court for the First District.

Pineau received support from Haverhill nearly 50 locals and cannabis advocates from across the state that rallied on her behalf this past weekend when they gathered for a demonstration across from Mark’s Deli in Railroad Square on June 9.

An economic empowerment applicant with priority status from the Cannabis Control Commission, Pineau is one of four business owners looking to open marijuana shops in the City of Haverhill. CNA Stores is pursuing a location at 558 River St., while Full Harvest Moonz hopes to open at 101 Plaistow Road and Mellow Fellows is considering doing business on Amesbury Road.

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