News and Press Releases

United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner
Eastern District of California

Mariposa and Fresno Counties Marijuana Prosecution Update

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, May 13, 2013
 

FRESNO, Calif. —Salvador Gonzalez Farias, 33, of Mexico, was indicted last Thursday, for marijuana cultivation in Mariposa County. Today, Kimxay Siribounthong, 53, of El Sobrante, Calif., pleaded guilty to conspiring to cultivate, distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana in Fresno County, U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

6,993 Marijuana Plants Seized in Mariposa (Case No. 1:13CR174 AWI-BAM)
According to the indictment, Gonzalez conspired to cultivate and distribute marijuana, and cultivated and possessed marijuana with intent to distribute, and avoiding examination by immigration officers. According to court documents, Gonzalez was found at a marijuana cultivation operation containing 6,993 marijuana plants on a residential property in Mariposa. The grow site was located by Mariposa County Sheriff deputies responding to a call for suspected cockfighting. A follow-up search warrant resulted in the seizure of marijuana plants from indoor and outdoor locations, along with two rifles.

If convicted, Gonzalez faces 10 years to life in prison and a $10 million fine. He is subject to deportation. Any sentence, however, would 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; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. He is next scheduled to appear for a status conference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara A. McAuliffe on June 24, 2013.

This case was the product of an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office.

1,429 Marijuana Plants Seized in Squaw Valley (Case No. 1:12CR325 AWI-BAM)
Siribounthong pleaded guilty today to conspiring to cultivate, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute 1,429 marijuana plants seized from a rural location in Squaw Valley in Fresno County. He is scheduled for sentencing on July 22, 2013. He faces 10 years to life in prison and a $10 million fine. The actual sentence, however, 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.

This case was the product of an investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office under the umbrella of Operation Mercury, a multi-agency eradication effort implemented in 2012 in six counties in the Central Valley to address the growing problem of large-scale marijuana cultivation operations on agricultural land. To date, the effort has resulted in the prosecution of 84 federal defendants and the seizure of nearly half a million marijuana plants.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting both criminal cases.

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