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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Colorado

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Mesa County Man Sentenced To 5 Years in Federal Prison For Growing Marijuana on an Island in the Colorado River

BLM and DEA agents seized 9,156 marijuana plants

DENVER – Santos Ramirez-Carrillo, age 33, of Mesa County, was sentenced yesterday by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Marcia S. Krieger to serve 60 months (5 years) in federal prison for conspiracy to manufacture and possess with intent to distribute 50 or more marijuana plants, announced U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Special Agent in Charge Gary Mannino and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Denver Division Special Agent in Charge William T. McDermott. 

Ramirez-Carrillo appeared at the sentencing hearing in custody and was remanded at its conclusion.  Co-defendant Santos Ramirez-Alvarez earlier pled guilty to similar charges, and is pending sentencing on August 6, 2018. 

According to court documents, including the defendant’s plea agreement, in May 2017, Ramirez-Carrillo and Ramirez-Alvarez began living and working on an island in the Colorado River near DeBeque, Colorado.  The island is partly comprised of federal land, administered by BLM.  Over the course of the next four months, the defendant and his co-conspirators worked together on this and another nearby island to cultivate thousands of marijuana plants.  On September 7, 2017, agents from several federal, local and state agencies executed a search warrant on the island.  While doing so, officers approached a suspected campsite.  Agents and officers gave loud commands announcing their presence.  Three men tried to run away and both Ramirez-Carrillo and Ramirez-Alvarez were captured.  A third man  escaped.  During the search of the islands, agents and officers discovered 9,156 plants. 

"Federal lands belong to all of us,” said U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer.  “We will continue to pursue and punish people who abuse those lands and exploit them for criminal purposes.”

"Illegal marijuana cultivation poses environmental and safety hazards to the public," said Gary Mannino, BLM Colorado Special Agent in Charge. "Our goal is to provide a safe, healthy environment for the public when they come out to enjoy their public lands." 

“This case highlights the success of DEA’s relationships with our Federal, State and Local law enforcement counterparts to combat large-scale organized crime groups cultivating marijuana on public lands for distribution on the black market,” said DEA Denver Division Special Agent in Charge William T. McDermott.  “Since the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, law enforcement has discovered a significant increase in the cultivation of marijuana on public lands.  These marijuana cultivations routinely consist of thousands of plants, which has a severe impact on the environment and wildlife and threatens the safety of anyone who comes upon them.”

This case was investigated by the BLM and the DEA, with support from the DEA Air Wing assets.  Assisting with the search warrant execution was the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, Grand Junction Police Department, Western Colorado Drug Task Force, Colorado State Patrol, and the Colorado National Guard.  The defendants are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy Chaffin of the Grand Junction Branch Office.

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 
CASE NUMBER: 17-cr-00338
Updated July 3, 2018