Business

Husband of Trulieve CEO boasted of influencing lawmaker

By Alex Halperin
Aug 12, 2021

In bombshell testimony, J.T. Burnette, a Florida businessman and husband of Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers, confronted a secretly recorded conversation from 2016 in which he boasted to undercover FBI agents about working with a state representative to add legal barriers that would benefit Trulieve at the expense of its competitors
Tallahassee.com

  • The Capitolist reports, “On the recording, Burnette describes how he worked with then-state rep. Halsey Beshears(R) in 2014 to put “little tweaks” into the criteria for those applying for a MED license into Florida’s MED bill at the last minute, making it impossible for certain competitors to qualify for a license.” 
  • Testifying under oath, Burnette said that in the recording he had given a false impression to the FBI agents because he thought it was what they wanted to hear. ‘The reality is I was kind of bragging about something that happened before my time,” Burnette said.

Burnette is currently on trial for federal bribery and corruption charges. Neither Trulieve nor Rivers has been accused of wrongdoing.

  • The legal barriers, which included a requirement that only nurseries which had been operating for 30 years could be eligible for licenses, were added by an “unseen hand,” according to Tallahassee.com. 
  • Beshears’ brother Thad Beshears sat on the board of one of the five companies that won the licenses. That company is now Trulieve.
  • Former Rep. Beshears (R) has consistently denied co-operating with Burnette.  They are friends from childhood.

A Trulieve spokesman stood by previous statements that Burnette “had no formal involvement or participation in the formation of Trulieve” and added that Burnette was never formally speaking for Trulieve. To Tallahassee.com, the company separately denied through counsel that Burnette had authorization to speak for the company. 

  • At the time, Rivers was Burnette’s girlfriend. According to a June SEC filing, her 23.8% stake in the MSO is worth about $793M.
  • According to an S.E.C. filing, Burnette is a minority owner of a company that provides construction and related services to Trulieve. In 2020, Trulieve’s property and equipment purchases from the vendor totaled $96.7M.