Former Metal Church Bassist Allegedly Sold Pot, Is Fucked

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He's not smiling anymore

Yeah, this dude — hugging the banana — is beyond fucked. Investigators have been on him for months. They’ve run his reported income records against his actual financials. They have witnesses. Steve Unger, who played bass for defunct metal band Metal Church and was perhaps better known by his stage name of Shrapnel, is probably going to end up in jail. And that’s a bummer, man. Legalize it!

According to a lengthy report on the News Tribune’s Web site, authorities in Pierce County, Washington, claim they’ve shut down a three-county marijuana-growing operation which they believe was fronted by Unger — who, perhaps not coincidentally, has “naughty” listed as his current mood on MySpace. Just saying.

Police raided a number of residences, business and storage units connected with the growing operation, unearthing guns, explosives, drugs, scales, and other equipment related to the operation. They’ve also seized Steve’s boat, truck, two cars, his mobile home, his Harley, and 20 guitars. That sounds like a seizure sale I need to attend!

Steve, who is 41, allegedly “led the operation from May 2008 until his arrest Monday and used two businesses in Spanaway and Thurston County to sell marijuana,” the paper reports. He has been charged with some serious crimes: leading organized crime, unlawfully manufacturing a controlled substance and money laundering. He has pleaded not guilty, and is being held in Pierce County Jail on $100,000 bail. Fuck, that’s not good!

Luckily, Unger’s attorney seems to have his shit together. Jay Berneburg says Steve “adamantly denies” the allegations and is a professional musician who travels and has earned his money legitimately through record sales, concerts and other contracts. “This is another case of the war on drugs run amok,” Berneburg told the paper.

Three other men were charged on possession and intent charges. They’re the ones who probably sold Steve up the river.

According to court records, police were tipped months ago that Unger might be running or at least funding several growing operations in homes in three counties in Washington state. Surveillance of the homes, several storage units, and business tied to the ring was established, and they used a tracking device to keep tabs on Steve’s movements. The owners of one business told police they were having money issues and agreed to sell weed from their shop for a cut.

This led investigators to a cargo trailer — registered to Unger and parked on the property — that contained 76 knee-high marijuana plants. One home was searched, where a gun, a half pound of weed, and a growing room were found. The lady who lives there claims she let Steve set it up in her house. “He taught her how to tend it, and then he would harvest it and give her money,” court documents claims. “She felt that he wasn’t giving her enough money, so she had him remove the grow.”

The tracking device proved Steve had visited all of these places on a regular basis, according to court papers. When he was arrested, he had $1,700 in cash on him. In addition, the Sheriff’s Department checked Unger’s income record with the Washington State Employment Security Department. They claim Unger reported no wages for four years and hasn’t paid business taxes since 1997.

“From May 2008 through June of 2010, when Unger[buehler] had no reportable income, he deposited $176,022.42 into his Key Bank account,” court documents state. “$96,525 of that was cash deposits.”

Like I said — fucked!