Authorities will get you, even if you’ve been out of the game for years. That was the case of Anthony Alegrete, who served 24 months in federal prison and an additional 24 months of house arrest for his involvement in a cannabis operation. The bust ensnared scores of other individuals, including Evelyn LaChappelle and Anthony’s good friend Corvain Cooper. The latter would be sentenced to life on a third-strike drug charge.
Old charges coming back hurt that much more for Alegrete and his wife, Loriel. Anthony was in college. The two had built a successful local charitable endeavor in the Las Vegas area. Making matters worse, their third child, and first daughter, was on the way.
Once out, Alegrete was determined to not only rebuild his own life but get Corvain home so that the two could further give back to the community.
Alegrete and Cooper have been friends for nearly 30 years. Meeting at Hollywood High School in Los Angeles in 1994, the two had a tight bond. But by 2005, they began amicably heading in different directions as their careers blossomed post-cannabis sales. By 2008, the two hadn’t interacted much for years, with Cooper owning a fashion store, while Alegrete moved to Las Vegas and enrolled at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Like Cooper, the Alegretes also focused on community efforts. They created a charitable program for the city aimed at combating childhood obesity, Jump For Joy.
“After getting in trouble so much in my younger years and moving to Vegas, I gave myself a life sentence to community service,” he stated.
Within months, the program boasted hundreds of campers. Two years later, it boasted three to 4,000 attendees. The program would work with schools and organizations like the YMCA and Boys & Girls Club of America. With school and the program thriving, Alegrete found his path, dedicating his skills to community service.
Then, his past came back in the form of federal agents.
Seven years removed from any illicit cannabis activity, Alegrete was stunned to see he was in the crosshairs of the law once again. In previous experiences, he had been convicted on operation-related charges. In one instance, he was sentenced for giving an ID to someone caught selling cannabis. Another charge stemmed from handling cannabis funds. He thought he had paid for his crimes.
Alegrete wasn’t facing a mandatory life sentence for a third-strike offense like Cooper, whose three charges stemmed directly from drug charges. Not facing a mandatory life sentence, coupled with his ongoing schooling and community service, allowed Alegrete to earn a softer punishment than what he might have been given. He credits the outpouring of support he received from the community.
He recalled a procedural hearing, typically taking 15 minutes, became a “four-hour miniature trial about my character and the man I’d become post-crime.” He added, “I had people fly out. I had doctors and Ph.D. professors… fly out to speak about my character because I had been such a changed individual.” In the end, he said prosecutors portrayed him as a villain.
The courts would delay his sentencing for two years so he could finish college. Instead of taking the next steps in his career after graduating, the Outstanding Student Graduate award winner would serve two years in prison.
Prison certainly tested both Anthony and Loriel. He would do his best to continue educating himself, reading frequently. Some favorites included Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom and all of Malcolm Gladwell’s works. The book to make the most impact was Gregory David Robert’s 2003 novel Shantaram, the story of an escaped Australian convict who lives in the slums of India where he provides free healthcare to the community while also continuing in illicit operations like the mafia.
While Anthony waited for freedom, Loriel served as the sole provider for herself and their three children. She was experienced in such a predicament. At 13, she provided a similar role to her family when her brother was arrested and tried.
While challenging, the two remained together. “She really stayed down, man,” Anthony said of Loriel, calling her a beautiful woman. “It’s my duty, no matter what, even if we broke up, to always make sure that she’s taken care of,” he said.
On May 14, 2015, Anthony received his release from prison.
Alegrete spent the next two years rebuilding what he lost. That included reestablishing his reputation, career and finances. Post-prison, he didn’t want to become a grunt. He wanted to thrive once again. He first landed a position with a logistics company, where he received equity while handling 1,500 deliveries every day. “I learned the logistics business, then I was slowly getting back into the entrepreneurial spirits,” he recalled.
The shared legal experience with Cooper reinvigorated their friendship. Once released, Alegrete would have regular calls with Cooper while he served his life sentence. The two talked like old friends while also thinking about how Cooper could earn his release. Those conversations eventually led to forming a social impact brand aimed at advocating for people like them in the system. The endeavor would also strive to ensure that kids don’t follow their path. They eventually settled on 40 Tons as a name, recognizing the amount of cannabis authorities allege Cooper had trafficked.
“We learned our lesson,” said Alegrete. “We wanna stop the next Corvain Cooper from going down that path,” he said. While educating kids, the endeavor also aims to provide support for prisoners through financial donations, scholarships, career fairs and other means of support.
Cooper had begun to garner significant support from various advocates and cannabis prisoner rights groups by this time. After he connected the groups to Alegrete, a unified effort began to take shape.
The Alegretes would launch 40 Tons to ensure Cooper would not harm his current standing by associating with a cannabis operation. Part of the company’s commitment to criminal justice is its line of shirts featuring past and current prisoners, including Cooper. All of the proceeds from the sales of prisoner-centric shirts go directly towards the featured prisoner.
On January 20, 2021, Cooper received clemency from then-President Trump. Upon his return, Cooper joined 40 Tons as an advocate and brand ambassador. Cooper does not have any involvement in the company’s cannabis or accessories line, per his sentencing conditions. He focuses on advocacy and the company’s clothing options.
40 Tons is now starting to become profitable. At the same time, the Alegretes continue to advocate for the release of nonviolent cannabis offenders. A primary focus is stopping recidivism, prisoners reoffending post-release. An upcoming career fair aims to help with resumes, obtain a career in the field, while also assisting offenders obtain their record expungement. The Alegretes hope their efforts are just one of many that help provides more resources to prisoners and families affected by the prison system.
Today, Alegrete considers himself “The type of citizen that our government would want.” He calls himself a contributor, noting his investments in the community while abiding by the laws as a tax-paying citizen.
“I had to go through the fire to come out the other side,” he said.