Caldwell Man Sentenced for Trafficking Marijuana
Wife and Two Co-Conspirators Sentenced Earlier
BOISE – The fourth person in a marijuana trafficking conspiracy was sentenced today in federal court in Boise, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced. Jose Cardona-Ramirez, 47, of Caldwell, Idaho, was sentenced to 84 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for conspiracy to manufacture/distribute 1,000 or more marijuana plants. Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill fined Cardona-Ramirez $300 and ordered forfeiture of vehicles, $200,000 cash, bank accounts, and interest in firearms seized in California. The defendant's wife and codefendant, Victoria Villa-Gonzalez, 39, was sentenced on January 5 to 27 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release. Both pled guilty in September 2011.
Two co-conspirators were sentenced in the last two months, also for conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Francisco Cardona-Rodriguez, of Rio Grande City, Texas, was sentenced on December 12 to 37 months in prison, and Heber Franco-Lombera, of Bieber, California, was sentenced on November 29 to 60 months in prison.
According to court documents, the four 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 Cardona-Ramirez and his wife, Victoria Villa-Gonzalez, 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 Cardona-Ramirez, and his passenger, Francisco Cardona-Rodriguez, to Franco-Lombera's house in Bieber, California. During a search of the residence, officers found marijuana plants being processed, packaged marijuana, and two firearms.
“Drug cultivation on public lands harms our natural resources and poses a danger to those who use public lands for peaceful and recreational purposes,” said Olson. “Mr. Cardona- Ramirez and his co-defendants sought to engage in criminal conduct for their own profit using land that we all own. For that, they will serve significant terms in federal prison. This office and our partner law enforcement agencies will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute marijuana grows on public lands.”
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.