News and Press Releases

United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner
Eastern District of California

Federal Marijuana Prosecutions in Stanislaus and Kern Counties

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
 

www.usdoj.gov/usao/cae

usacae.edcapress@usdoj.gov

 

FRESNO, Calif. — Two marijuana cultivators were sentenced and two more entered guilty pleas today for their involvement in separate large-scale marijuana cultivation operations in Stanislaus and Kern Counties, according to U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner.

Sentenced for 4 Tons of Marijuana Seized Near Waterford High School
(Case No. 1:12CR351 LJO)
Fahn Meng Lee, aka Saelee Fahn Meng, aka Kathy Ming Lee, 54, and her husband, John Yaohinh Lee, aka Yao Hinh Saelee, aka Yao Hinh Lee, 55, of Waterford, were sentenced for their involvement in growing four tons of  marijuana (491 plants) on their strawberry farm, which was within 450 feet of Waterford High School. Fahn Lee was sentenced to five years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. John Lee was sentenced to a three-year probationary term and is subject to electronic monitoring. A higher sentence was imposed on Fahn Lee, because she had a prior conviction in federal court for conspiring to import 210 pounds of opium into the United States.

The Lees pleaded guilty in August. According to court documents and proceedings, the couple claimed the plants were being grown for medical reasons. However, agents who were executing a search warrant on the property did not find any evidence of personal use in the residence and the number and weight of the plants far exceeded the amount purportedly recommended by their doctor.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency, a multi-agency drug task force in Modesto.

The doctor, Terrill Brown, M.D., has been indicted in a separate case in federal court involving the unlawful distribution of oxycodone. The charges against him are merely allegations. He is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Guilty Plea in Case with 7,302 Marijuana Plants Seized from Sequoia National Forest
(Case No. 1:13CR172 AWI)

Sergio Reyna Huerta, 36, of Michoacán, Mexico, pleaded guilty to conspiring to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute marijuana grown in the Gibboney Canyon area of the Sequoia National Forest in Kern County. The area is also within the federally designated Domeland Wilderness area. According to court documents, U.S. Forest Service agents seized 7,302 marijuana plants from the site and found 5,000 marijuana plant stalks consistent with a prior harvest in 2012. During the execution of a federal search warrant at the site, agents found Reyna sleeping in a tent. In pleading guilty, Reyna agreed to pay $2,675 in restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for damage caused by the cultivation operation. Trash and fertilizer bags were scattered about the area and the ground was terraced after native vegetation, including oak trees, was cut down to make room for the marijuana plants. Trash was also found in the waterway of Gibboney Creek.

Reyna is scheduled for sentencing on January 21, 2014. He faces a mandatory prison term of five years and a maximum prison term of 40 years, along with a fine of $5 million. The actual sentence, however, will 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. Reyna is also subject to deportation to Mexico upon completion of his prison term.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Forest Service, DEA, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Kern County Sheriff’s Office.

Guilty Plea for Case Involving 920 Marijuana Plants Seized from Private Ranch in Kern County
(Case No. 1:12CR299 LJO)

Jorge A. Torres, 28, of Phoenix, Ariz., is the fourth defendant to plead guilty to conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana 920 marijuana plants at a private ranch in Kern County. The ranch owner was unaware of the cultivation operation. According to the guilty plea, law enforcement officers also found processed marijuana, an assault rifle, and ammunition.

Torres is scheduled for sentencing on February 3, 2014. He faces a maximum prison term of 20 years, along with a fine of up to $1 million. The actual sentence, however, will 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. Torres is also subject to deportation to Mexico upon completion of his prison term.

The case was investigated by the DEA, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Forest Service, and Kern County Sheriff’s Office.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar is handling the above marijuana prosecutions.

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