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Mexican National Admits Growing Marijuana on Public Lands

APR 28 (BOISE, Idaho) – Gilberto Duran-Contreras, 51, a Mexican national, pleaded guilty on April 22, 2014, in federal court to unlawfully manufacturing more than 1,000 marijuana plants, and damage to government land. 

According to the plea agreement, on September 15, 2013, Duran-Contreras was arrested on Hwy 21 near Lowman, a few miles from an outdoor marijuana growing operation on Little Beaver Creek in Boise National Forest. A few days earlier, three of his co-defendants Marcos Solano-Farias, Jose Misael Ayala-Talavera, and Carlos Cerda-Carpio, were arrested in a related outdoor marijuana growing operation with 1,411 plants on Rabbit Creek.  The three co-defendants have already pleaded guilty.  Duran-Contreras admitted he had worked in the growing operation on Little Beaver Creek where law enforcement officers had removed 5,463 marijuana plants.  According to the plea agreements, investigators found and seized two semi-automatic handguns, and an AK-47 type rifle at the Rabbit Creek camp.  Firearms had also been present at the Little Beaver Creek camp.  At both locations, investigators found several hundred marijuana plants that had already been harvested.  Law enforcement officers located and eradicated all live marijuana plants from these camps. 

The fourth co-defendant, Mariah Villasenor-Rodriquez, recently pleaded guilty to possession of more than 100 kilos of processed marijuana at her premises in Caldwell, Idaho.  She is the wife of lead co-defendant, Juan Pablo Villasenor-Villa, who is set for trial on July 21, 2014. 

All defendants were indicted by a federal grand jury on October 9, 2013, on charges of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana, possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking, and injury to federal public lands.  Duran-Contreras will be sentenced on July 8, 2014.

The charge of manufacturing more than 1,000 marijuana plants carries a penalty of not less than ten years and up to life in prison, a maximum fine of $10 million, and five years of supervised release. The charge of injury to government property is punishable by up to ten years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release.  Possession of more than 100 kilograms is punishable by not less than five years and up to 25 years in prison, a maximum fine of $5 million and up to three years of supervised release.

The case is the result of a joint investigation of the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), which included the cooperative enforcement efforts of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Land Management, and the United States Forest Service. Substantial assistance was provided by the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, Boise County Sheriff’s Office, Boise Police Department, City County Narcotics Unit (Canyon County Sheriff’s Office and Caldwell Police Department), Idaho National Guard, Meridian Police Department, Nampa Police Department, Spokane Police Department, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and Washington State Police. 

The OCDETF program is a federal, multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force that supplies supplemental federal funding to federal and state agencies involved in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of major drug trafficking organizations.

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