United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner
Eastern District of California
Lassen County Marijuana Growers Present at
Fatal Shootout Sentenced to 15 Years Imprisonment on Drug and Firearms Convictions
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE||
CONTACT: Lauren Horwood
January 11, 2011
PHONE: (916) 554-2706
Docket #: 2:09-cr-273-JAM
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced
today that United States District Judge John A. Mendez sentenced Jose Alfredo Zepeda, 20 of
East Palo Alto, and Clemente Ferrias Arroyo, 63, of Morgan Hill, each to 15 years in prison to
be followed by five years of supervised release for conspiracy to cultivate marijuana and
possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes. Both defendants were
convicted by a jury in April, 2010, following an 11-day trial.
Parole has been abolished in the federal system, and both defendants will be required to
serve at least 85 percent of the prison time imposed today.
This case is a result of an investigation by the United States Department of Interior,
Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Lassen County Sheriff’s Department and the
Susanville Police Department.
According to court documents, during the investigation of a large outdoor marijuana
garden on BLM land, law enforcement officers encountered Juan Carlos Herrera-Chavez, who
engaged the officers in a gun battle with an AK-47 rifle and wounded two Lassen County
Sheriff’s officers. Herrera-Chavez was killed by the officers’ return gunfire. Zepeda and Arroyo
were present in the marijuana garden and were arrested after the gun battle.
Evidence introduced during the trial revealed that Herrera-Chavez, his brother-in-law,
Zepeda, and Arroyo started the marijuana garden in May 2009. Herrera-Chavez carried an
AK-47 semi-automatic rifle, Zepeda carried an SKS semi-automatic rifle, and Arroyo carried a
Smith & Wesson 9 mm semi-automatic pistol to protect the marijuana growing operation.
U.S. Attorney Wagner said: “Marijuana cultivators who ply their trade on public lands
armed with semi-automatic rifles pose a serious threat to law enforcement and to all persons who
use those lands. The sentences imposed today should make clear that the U.S. Department of
Justice has no tolerance for such conduct. We will seek out and aggressively prosecute those
who attempt to use public lands as havens for armed drug traffickers.”
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