Former Poker Player Shawn Sheikhan Sentenced to Four Years for Running Illegal Cannabis Operation

Poker “bad boy” Shawn Sheikhan has been handed a four-year sentence in a federal prison for running an illegal cannabis enterprise. The 54-year-old, known for his contentious appearance in the 2005 World Series of Poker Main Event, pleaded guilty to allegations of operating illicit and unlicensed marijuana dispensaries in Southern California.

Together with his co-defendant, Sabriana Williams, Sheikhan managed a business called “Cannaland,” distributing cannabis both through their own illegal outlets and as a wholesaler to unlicensed dispensaries across the region. Law enforcement officers carried out a raid on Cannaland’s headquarters in Spring Valley, Calif. in April 2021, seizing 3,000 pounds of cannabis with an estimated street value exceeding $6 million, alongside five firearms. Following the raid, Sheikhan and Williams supposedly procured replacement firearms for Cannaland’s armed security guards and continued to distribute substantial amounts of marijuana.

As part of their plea deal, Sheikhan and Williams admitted to distributing over 3,000 kilos of marijuana products through Cannaland between 2019 and 2022. The sentencing memorandum submitted by Sheikhan’s attorney, Richard Schonfeld, and character references from poker TV producer Mori Eskandani were put forth in an attempt to mitigate the severity of the sentence. In the memorandum, Eskandani, a Poker Hall of Fame inductee, spoke of Sheikan’s “serious remorse” and the respect he displayed for his family and others, despite his reputation for displaying poor poker etiquette.

While the request for clemency was made, Sheikhan faced a maximum sentence of 40 years in Federal prison and a $5 million fine. Matusow, Sheikhan’s adversary in the poker world, remains unlikely to support any plea for leniency, as commentator Lon McHearn noted back in 2005 – “These guys are like oil and water.”