News and Press Releases

United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner
Eastern District of California

Inyo National Forest Marijuana Cultivators Indicted

Thursday, September 5, 2013


Docket #: 1:13-cr-00340-LJO-SKO



FRESNO, Calif. — A federal grand jury in Fresno returned an indictment today charging Jose Aguilar Santoyo, 25, of Michoacán, Mexico, Javier Rios Morales, 25, of Jalisco, Mexico, and Jose Salvador Garcia Rodriguez, 23, of Guanajuato, Mexico for their involvement in a large-scale marijuana cultivation operation in Inyo National Forest that was controlled by distributors in Riverside County, announced United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner.

According to court documents, U.S. Forest Service agents found a marijuana cultivation operation in the Hogback Creek area of the Inyo National Forest. They set up trail cameras and photographed supply drops. The load vehicles were tracked to several stash houses in Riverside County. Ultimately, agents executed four search warrants at the grow site and three residences in Riverside County.

Agents seized 3,405 marijuana plants, 350 pounds of processed marijuana, digital scales, highly toxic and illegal insecticides, and 2,200 pounds of trash. Agents estimate that it will cost at least $5,000 to reclaim the Hogback Creek area grow site, which was devastated by the cultivation operation. Agents in Riverside County seized two pounds of methamphetamine, a methamphetamine laboratory, five firearms, $10,000 in cash, and two pounds of marijuana from the Moreno Valley residence of one of the suppliers to the grow site. Agents seized another 450 marijuana plants and marijuana cultivation at a stash house in Homeland. At another stash house in Romoland, they seized a firearm, marijuana shake and residue, and shipping labels consistent with the shipment of marijuana to Chicago.

Each defendant was charged with conspiring to manufacture, to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute marijuana, manufacturing marijuana, possessing marijuana with intent to distribution, and damaging Forest Service land and natural resources. If convicted of the drug charges, the defendants face 10 years to life in prison and a fine of up to $10 million. They face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for the environmental charge. In addition, the defendants are subject to deportation to Mexico if convicted. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory 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.

This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.




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