United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner
Eastern District of California
Mexican Nationals Sentenced For Growing Marijuana On Public Land
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE||
Monday, July 9, 2012
FRESNO, Calif. — Two defendants were sentenced today in two separate cases for growing marijuana in Sequoia National Forest, U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
Cultivation operation in the Bohna Creek area in Kern County
(Case No. 1:10-cr-353 LJO)
In the first case, Ascencion Armas Ramírez, aka Jose Armas, aka Juan Garcia, aka Asunsion Ramires Rodrigues, 29, of Michoacán, Mexico, was sentenced to 15 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill for conspiring to cultivate, distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana and possessing firearms in furtherance of the drug conspiracy.
According to court documents, Armas Ramírez conspired with others to cultivate approximately 6,867 marijuana plants on public land in the Bohna Creek area in the Sequoia National Forest in Kern County. In furtherance of the conspiracy, he also possessed a loaded Browning Arms 9 millimeter semi-automatic pistol and a loaded SKS 7.62 X 39 caliber semi-automatic assault rifle. The marijuana cultivation operation resulted in significant environmental damage. Law enforcement officers found malathion, urea fertilizer, batteries, several thousand feet of plastic irrigation lines, and trash at the site. Oak trees and other vegetation were cut to allow sunlight to reach the plants. Armas Ramirez was also ordered to pay the U.S. Forest Service $3,825 for cleaning up the site.
Co-defendant Jorge Alejandro Aburto, aka Jorge Alejandro Gallegos, 28, of Michoacán, Mexico, was sentenced to six years and eight months in prison and Israel Armas Ramirez, 27, of Michoacán, Mexico, was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Lorenzo Segundo Gallegos, aka Misael Gallegos, aka Joaquin Gallegos, aka Pablo Segundo, 26, of Michoacán, Mexico, was sentenced to 6 years and 7 months in prison for his part in the conspiracy.
Cultivation operation in the Burnt Canyon area in Kern County
(Case No. 1:11-cr-305 AWI)
In the second case, Cirrilo Gutiérrez-Garcia, 25, of Michoacán, Mexico, was sentenced to two years and six months in prison by U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii for conspiring to cultivate, distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana grown on public land.
According to court documents, Gutiérrez-Garcia was responsible for watering and caring for approximately 2,953 marijuana plants at the Burnt Canyon grow site in the Sequoia National Forest in Kern County. Trash, fertilizer and insecticide containers were found stored within a few feet of a nearby creek. Native vegetation was destroyed to make room for the marijuana plants. Gutiérrez-Garcia was also ordered to pay $1,482 in restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for the cost of cleaning up the land.
Charges are pending against co-defendant Andrés Muñoz-Villa, 42. The charges are only allegations, and he is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
These cases were the product of investigations by the U.S. Forest Service with assistance from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Kern County Sheriff’s Department, Tulare County Sheriff’s Department, Kern County Probation Office, Bakersfield Police Department, Shafter Police Department, Taft Police Department, and the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), a multi-agency law enforcement task force composed of local, state and federal agencies organized expressly to eradicate illegal marijuana cultivation and trafficking in California. Assistant United States Attorneys Karen Escobar and Alyson Berg prosecuted the cases.