California Man Sentenced for Conspiracy to Manufacture and Distribute Marijuana
BOISE – Heber Franco-Lombera, 25, of Bieber, California, was sentenced today to 60 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for conspiracy to distribute marijuana, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced. Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill also ordered Franco-Lombera to pay a $500 fine and forfeit firearms. He pleaded guilty to the charge in September 2011.
According to court documents, Franco-Lombera and three co-defendants—two from Idaho and one from Texas—were involved in growing more than 1,000 marijuana plants on public lands in Oregon and California for the purpose of selling/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 co-defendants 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, co-defendant Francisco Cardona-Rodriguez, to Franco-Lombera’s house in Bieber, California. During a search of the residence, officers found marijuana plants being processed and packaged marijuana. The officers also found two firearms, a pistol and a shotgun.
Co-conspirators Cardona-Ramirez, Villa-Gonzalez, and Cardona-Rodriguez pled guilty earlier to conspiracy to manufacture/distribute 1,000 or more marijuana plants; Cardona-Ramirez also pled guilty to being a deported alien found in the United States. Cardona-Rodriguez is scheduled to be sentenced on December 12; Villa-Gonzalez on January 5, 2012; and Cardona- Ramirez on January 19, 2012.
The charge of conspiracy to manufacture/distribute 1,000 or more marijuana plants is punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than 10 years and up to life, a term of supervised release of at least five years, and a maximum fine of $10 million. The charge of being a deported alien found in the United States is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years, a maximum fine of $250,000, and a term of supervised release of not more than three years.
The investigation was 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.
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.