Two Mexican Nationals Sent to Federal Prison for Maintaining Marijuana Grow Site on Routt National Forest
DENVER – Two Mexican Nationals in the country illegally were sentenced by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Marcia S. Krieger to serve federal prison terms for intentionally manufacturing and possessing with intent to manufacturing 50 or more marijuana plants in the Routt National Forest, the U.S. Attorney, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Routt County Sheriff’s Office announced.
The two defendants, Alfonso Rodriguez-Vazquez and Nestor Fabian Sinaloa-Sinaloa, were first charged by Criminal Complaint on August 8, 2015. They were then indicted by a federal grand jury on September 28, 2015. On November 24, 2015, Rodriguez-Vazquez was charged by Information, and then pled guilty to the manufacture of 50 or more marijuana plants. On November 30, 2015, Sinaloa-Sinaloa was also charged by Information, and then pled guilty to the same crime.
On March 7, 2016, Sinaloa-Sinaloa was sentenced by Chief Judge Krieger to serve 33 months in federal prison, followed by 3 years on supervised release. On March 8, 2016, Rodriguez-Vazquez was sentenced by Chief Judge Krieger to serve 30 months in federal prison, followed by 3 years on supervised release. Both appeared at their court hearings in custody, and were remanded at each hearings’ conclusion.
Both defendants were found maintaining a 3/4-acre illegal grow site located in the Buffalo Pass area, northeast of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The eradication team seized 926 marijuana plants and removed camping gear from the site. The Forest Service also cleaned-up additional trash and other items. The grow was found after suspicious activity was reported to the U.S. Forest Service by a citizen, leading to the discovery of the grow site by law enforcement.
“Growing marijuana on public lands is not only a violation of the drug laws, it is a devastating form of environmental crime,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. “The Forest Service and Routt County Sheriff’s Office, with the support of Homeland Security Investigation deserve particular credit for their aggressive law enforcement work, which ensured that these two individuals were arrested and held criminally accountable.”
“Hopefully this sends a message that the Forest Service remains serious about keeping our national forests safe and free from the environmental damage and impacts resulting from marijuana cultivation which remains illegal on national forest lands in Colorado” said U.S. Forest Service Acting Special Agent in Charge, Kent Delbon. “The success of these investigations could not be achieved without the great working partnerships we have in place with our local and federal partners along with the United States Attorney’s Office.”
“Homeland Security Investigations added our unique customs and immigration law enforcement authorities to investigate this case,” said David A. Thompson, special agent in charge of HSI Denver. “Our partnership with other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies helped ensure that these criminals were fully investigated and presented for prosecution, and that their illegal operations were totally dismantled to make the affected public lands and the surrounding communities safer.”
According to the Forest Service, illegal marijuana cultivation poses a public safety risk and also directly harms the environment. The illegal use of pesticides can cause extensive long-term damage to natural resources. For example, the supply of public drinking water for hundreds of miles may be impacted because of one marijuana growing site. Overall, the negative impact of marijuana sites on natural resources is severe. Human waste, trash and the use of pesticides are widespread, contamination from sites affects fish and wildlife habitats, and soil erosion is common. In addition, water usage is extreme because each marijuana plant is estimated to require a gallon of water per day – water that is critical to native vegetation, wildlife and public drinking water sources.
This matter was investigated by the U.S. Forest Service, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Routt County Sheriff’s Office.
The defendants were prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Wayne Paugh.
Forest visitors are urged to be observant while recreating in secluded areas and to back out and contact the U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement at (303) 275-5266, or your local law enforcement agency if they come across suspicious activities.