United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner
Eastern District of California
Two Mexican Nationals Indicted For Growing Marijuana On Agricultural Land In Kings County
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE||
Thursday,. August 23, 2012
FRESNO, Calif. — Almost one month after federal charges were brought against two men in connection with a marijuana cultivation operation in Devil’s Den, two more men, both Mexican nationals, were indicted today for their involvement in a related marijuana cultivation operation on agricultural land in Kettleman City, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
The indictment returned today charges Rafael Garcia-Deniz, 44, and Gonzalo Gutierrez-Lopez, 40, both of Jalisco, Mexico, with conspiring to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, manufacturing marijuana and possessing marijuana with intent to distribute. They are also charged with firearm and immigration offenses.
According to court records, the U.S. Attorney’s Office previously sent two letters to the corporate landowner of the Kettleman City property placing it on notice that marijuana was growing there earlier this year and recently. After the first letter was sent, the growers relocated to the Devil’s Den property for the purpose of growing marijuana. However, last month, law enforcement officers found marijuana growing again at the Kettleman City property and obtained a federal warrant to search the property. During the execution of the warrant, officers seized nearly 400 marijuana plants and a handgun and arrested Garcia-Deniz and Gutierrez-Lopez.
The defendants are scheduled for arraignment on August 27, 2012, in federal court in Fresno. If convicted of the most serious drug charges, Garcia-Deniz and Gutierrez-Lopez face a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison, a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison, and a $5 million fine. If convicted, the 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. The charges are only allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Kings County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting the case.