SACRAMENTO, CA -- United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner and Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Anthony D. Williams announced that a grand jury in Sacramento returned two separate indictments today, charging a total of 12 defendants in connection with two large commercial marijuana grow operations. The first indictment charges that several defendants conspired to produce at least 1,000 marijuana plants at a greenhouse farming facility in Sutter County. That indictment charges Yan Ebyam, 34, most recently from Sacramento; Thomas Wesley Jopson, 62, of Rio Oso; David Eldon Jopson, 60, of Rio Oso; Jesus Bruce, 35, of Los Molinos; Aimee Kristine Sisco, 30, of Los Molinos; Pablo Omar Vasquez, 31, of Rio Oso; Dolf Fred Podva, 35, of Rio Oso; Donald William Fried, 37, of Yreka; and Thomas Marrs, 38, of Red Bluff. The second indictment charges that Yan Ebyam and three others, Jonathan Austin, 30, of Paradise; Alberto Velez, 48, of Sacramento; and Joel Santiago-Ojeda, 38, of Sacramento, conspired to manufacture marijuana at the Cal-Nevada Wholesale Florist facility in Sacramento.
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and by IRS-Criminal Investigation, assisted by the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, and task forces in Sutter and Sacramento Counties. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Samuel Wong, Jason Hitt and Todd Pickles are prosecuting the case.
Yan Ebyam has been described in newspaper reports as a marijuana entrepreneur who had recently attempted to organize industrial marijuana grows in the Oakland area. The indictments follow the execution of federal search warrants on June 21, 2011, by local, state, and federal agents at both the Sutter County property and the florist facility in Sacramento. According to information from court documents previously filed in the matter, the organizers of the marijuana manufacturing operations sought to grow several crops of thousands of marijuana plants each year and sell the marijuana for millions of dollars under the guise that they were cultivating medical marijuana under California's Proposition 215, or the Compassionate Use Act.
If convicted of either of the drug charges, each defendant faces a penalty of a mandatory minimum 10 years to a maximum life in prison, a $10 million fine, and a minimum five years to life supervised release.
The enforcement action taken against these commercial marijuana manufacturing operations is consistent with U.S. Department of Justice policy that it will not focus enforcement efforts on individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended medical treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or their caregivers. The U.S. Department of Justice will, however, prosecute persons under the federal Controlled Substances Act who are in the commercial business of cultivating, selling, or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities.
U.S. Attorney Wagner expressed his appreciation to the Sutter County Sheriff's Office; the Sutter County District Attorney’s Office; Yuba-Sutter Narcotic Enforcement Team (NET-5); the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement; the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation; and United States Drug Enforcement Administration for their investigative assistance on this case.
U.S. Attorney Wagner emphasized that an indictment is a mere accusation and that defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.