Second Person Sentenced for Trafficking Marijuana
BOISE – Francisco Cardona-Rodriguez, 38, of Rio Grande City, Texas, was sentenced in federal court yesterday to 37 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for conspiracy to manufacture/distribute 1,000 or more marijuana plants, announced U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson. Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill also ordered Cardona-Rodriguez to forfeit assets. He pled guilty to the charge on October 3, 2011.
According to court documents, Cardona-Rodriguez and three co-defendants conspired to grow more than 1,000 marijuana plants on public lands in Oregon and California for the purpose of selling and distributing marijuana. The case was initiated when Oregon law enforcement officers observed a vehicle parked at a remote location in eastern Oregon, on a state highway next to a creek drainage. The vehicle was occupied by Jose Cardona-Ramirez and Victoria Villa-Gonzalez, a husband and wife from Caldwell, Idaho. Villa-Gonzalez was the registered owner of the vehicle. Through later surveillance, the officers observed Hispanic individuals tending marijuana plants in the hills above the highway. Federal law enforcement officers were then able to track the travel of another car registered to Villa, but operated by her husband, Jose Cardona-Ramirez, and passenger, Francisco Cardona-Rodriguez, to Franco-Lombera's house in Bieber, California. During a search of the residence, officers found packaged marijuana and marijuana plants being processed. The officers also discovered two firearms; however, there was no evidence that Cardona-Rodriguez knew about the firearms.
Co-conspirator Heber Franco-Lombera, of Bieber, California, was sentenced on November 29, 2011, to 60 months in prison for conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Victoria Villa-Gonzalez will be sentenced on January 5, 2012; her husband, Jose Cardona-Ramirez, will be sentenced on January 19, 2012.
“Even individuals – like Francisco Cardona-Rodriguez – who do not play a major role in a drug operation will be held accountable for their involvement,” Olson said. “Serious penalties await even those who minimally assist co-conspirators in handling, transporting, processing, or concealing the marijuana.”
The investigation was the result of a joint investigation of the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), led by the Bureau of Land Management and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Substantial cooperation was also provided by California Highway Patrol, Malheur County (Oregon) Sheriff's Office, Harney County (Oregon) Sheriff's Office, and Lassen County, Modoc County, and Shasta County (California) Sheriffs' Offices.
The OCDETF program is a federal multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force that supplies supplemental federal funding to federal and state agencies involved in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of major drug trafficking organizations.
Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is a collaborative effort by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and communities to prevent and deter gun violence.