United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner
Eastern District of California
Two Indicted For Growing Marijuana On Kern County Ecological Reserve
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE||
Thursday, August 23, 2012
FRESNO, Calif. — Two defendants were indicted today for their involvement in a marijuana cultivation operation on the Canebrake Ecological Reserve in Kern County, U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
“This indictment stems from an ongoing initiative targeting large-scale marijuana growers in six counties in the Central Valley of California,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “It is particularly egregious because the crimes occurred in an area that is home to endangered, protected and rare animals and plants.”
The indictment charges Cruz Soria, 27, of Bakersfield, and Mairo Correa-Garcia, 18, an undocumented alien from Michoacán, Mexico, with three narcotics offenses: conspiring to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, manufacturing marijuana and possessing marijuana with intent to distribute. Correa-Garcia is also charged with avoiding examination by immigration officers.
According to the court record, Soria and Correa-Garcia were responsible for cultivating over 500 marijuana plants in the Fay Canyon of the Canebrake Ecological Reserve. Law enforcement officers seized the plants, about 12 pounds of processed marijuana, and a stolen firearm. Among the plants, they also found several highly toxic chemicals, including Fosfuro de Zinc or zinc phosphide, a rat poison illegal to use in the U.S. without a license, and Furadan, an insecticide banned by the EPA for usage on crops consumed by humans.
The defendants are scheduled for arraignment on August 29, 2012, in federal court in Fresno. If convicted, the defendants face a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison, a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison, and a $5 million fine. The actual sentences, if convicted, 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. Forest Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), California Department of Fish and Game, and Kern County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting the case.