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Agricultural Marijuana Cultivators Enter Guilty Pleas

NOV 05 (FRESNO, Calif.) —Two men involved in the large-scale cultivation of marijuana on agricultural land pleaded guilty today, Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Anthony D. Williams and U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

Devil’s Den, Kings County Case (1:12-cr-233-LJO)

In the first case, Jonathan Anthony Meza, 20, of Los Angeles, pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm in furtherance of a marijuana cultivation operation. According to court documents, at the beginning of this year, while unemployed, Meza paid $18,000 in cash for five acres of land in Devil’s Den. During a search of the property, agents found 1,019 marijuana plants, a loaded rifle, food, and fertilizer. Meza is scheduled for sentencing on January 22, 2013 by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill. A status conference is set for December 3, 2012 for co-defendant Ramon Manjarrez-Del Vaal, 36, of Sinaloa, Mexico.

This case is a product of Operation Mercury, an intensive marijuana eradication effort initiated this year by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in six counties to address the increasing problem of marijuana cultivation on agricultural land. The Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Kings County Sheriff’s Department investigated the case.

Reedley, Fresno County Case (1:11-cr-373-AWI)

Ketkeo Vorasane, 46, of Reedley, pleaded guilty to possessing firearms in furtherance of a marijuana cultivation operation. According to court documents, drug agents found 1,163 marijuana plants, 1,723 pounds of processed marijuana, a loaded shotgun, and a Glock .357 handgun. Vorasane is scheduled for sentencing before Senior U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii on January 14, 2013. Vorasane’s cousin, Chanh Vorasane, 46, of Reedley, is also charged with various drug offenses in this case and has entered a not guilty plea. The charges against him are allegations and he is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. This case is the product of an investigation by the DEA and Fresno County Sheriff’s Department.

Meza and Ketkeo Vorasane both face five years to life in prison, and a fine of up to $250,000. Their actual sentences will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory sentencing factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

Assistant United States Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting both cases.



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