two men charged in conspiracy to grow marijuana
thousands of plants found in clinton, buchanan counties
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that two men were charged in federal court today with participating in a conspiracy to grow thousands of marijuana plants following the execution of federal search warrants at several locations.
Serafin Rodriguez Gonzalez, 24, address unknown, and Juan Francisco Garcia, 44, of Gower, Mo., were charged in a federal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo., with participating in a conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana.
Federal law enforcement agents began investigating a large marijuana growing operation in June 2010. In the course of that investigation, agents began conducting surveillance on Garcia in late June. According to an affidavit filed in support of today’s criminal complaint, Garcia contacted a confidential informant in June and again in July. Garcia allegedly told the informant that he had a marijuana growing operation in the St. Joseph, Mo., area, utilizing seven Hispanic male workers. Garcia allegedly told the informant that the marijuana plot would produce between one and two tons of marijuana. Garcia, the affidavit says, attempted to recruit the informant to help with the operation by bringing supplies to the men who were living at the site and helping to harvest the marijuana.
On Monday, July 26, 2010, with the assistance of 14 law enforcement agencies and more than 80 officers, agents executed four federal search warrants for two suspected marijuana growing sites in Clinton County, Mo., and Buchanan County, Mo., for a mobile home where Garcia was residing at Airy Acres Mobile Home Park in Gower, Mo., and for Garcia’s minivan.
Garcia was arrested at the trailer when agents executed the search warrant at approximately 6 a.m.
At the same time, agents executed a search warrant at the marijuana plot in Clinton County. There were approximately 3,000 growing marijuana plants at that location and a campsite with two tents and a tarp-covered living area. Agents simultaneously executed the search warrant at the marijuana plot in Buchanan County. There were approximately 4,000 growing marijuana plants at that location and a campsite with two tents and a tarp-covered living area.
Gonzalez was arrested by law enforcement officers at a Kansas City, Kan., residence. Agents knocked on the door of the residence at approximately 7:15 a.m. on Monday, July 26, 2010. An unknown Hispanic male ran out the back door and over a rear fence. Some of the agents attempted to follow him, while others searched the residence and found Gonzalez in an upstairs bedroom. Agents saw marijuana and other items associated with the manufacture of marijuana in plain view inside the residence.
After obtaining a Kansas state search warrant, agents found a number of related items in the residence, including approximately 10 pounds of marijuana seeds, approximately 40 pounds of marijuana in three large black trash bags, approximately five pounds of marijuana in multiple heat-sealed plastic bags, a loaded assault rifle, a 9 mm handgun, ammunition and approximately $3,000 in cash.
At each of the locations, agents seized numerous items that were in common and used in the manufacture and distribution of marijuana, including fertilizer, large amounts of eggs and food stores, battery booster boxes, hose sprayers and black plastic starter plant trays.
Phillips cautioned that the charge contained in this complaint is simply an accusation, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charge must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Rhoades. It was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Johnson County, Kan., Sheriff’s Department, the Buchanan County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the Clinton County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the St. Joseph, Mo., Police Department, the Independence, Mo., Police Department, and other agencies in a support role.