Due to the lapse in appropriations, Department of Justice websites will not be regularly updated. The Department’s essential law enforcement and national security functions will continue. Please refer to the Department of Justice’s contingency plan for more information.

You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of California

Monday, February 24, 2014

Case Update: Kern, Tulare, And Stanislaus Counties Marijuana Cultivation Operations

FRESNO, Calif. — Sergio Reyna, 36, and Juan Carlos Perez-Gonzales, both of Michoacàn, Mexico, and Thounethepmith Vongsenekeo, 58, of Savannakhet, Laos, were sentenced today for their involvement in separate marijuana cultivation operations in Kern, Tulare, and Stanislaus Counties, U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

7,302 Marijuana Plants Seized from Sequoia National Forest (1:13-cr-172 AWI)
Reyna was sentenced today to two and a half years in prison following his guilty plea last November to conspiring to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute marijuana grown in the Gibboney Canyon area of the Sequoia National Forest in Kern County. The area is also within the federally designated Domeland Wilderness area. According to court documents, U.S. Forest Service agents seized 7,302 marijuana plants from the site and found 5,000 marijuana plant stalks consistent with a prior harvest in 2012. During the execution of a federal search warrant at the site, agents found Reyna sleeping in a tent. In addition to his prison sentence, Reyna was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $2,675.57 to the U.S. Forest Service caused by the negative environmental impact of the cultivation operation. Trash and fertilizer bags were scattered about the area and the ground was terraced after native vegetation, including oak trees, was cut down to make room for the marijuana plants. Trash was also found in the waterway of Gibboney Creek. Reyna is also subject to deportation to Mexico after he serves his prison term.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Forest Service, DEA, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Kern County Sheriff’s Office.

1,313 Marijuana Plants/Firearms Seized from Tulare County Ag Grow (1:12-cr-341 LJO)
Following his guilty plea last year, Juan Carlos Perez-Gonzales was sentenced to 18 months in prison for his involvement in a marijuana cultivation operation on agricultural land in Terra Bella. According to court records, drug agents discovered the cultivation operation after following a supplier to the property. The supplier had previously delivered equipment and material for other marijuana cultivation operations on public lands in Ventura, San Luis Obispo, and Kern Counties. During the execution of a federal search warrant at the Terra Bella property, agents seized 1,313 marijuana plants, two firearms, and arrested six people, including Perez. The marijuana had a wholesale value of $1.5 million.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Tulare and Ventura Counties’ Sheriff’s Offices.

San Joaquin River Diverted to Grow Marijuana (1:12-cr-342 AWI)
Thounethepmith Vongsenekeo was sentenced today to three years and one month in prison for a marijuana cultivation operation alongside the San Joaquin River near the town of Newman. Water from the river was diverted to irrigate the 907 marijuana plants growing there. Agents also seized a firearm abandoned along the river. Vongsenekeo’s sentence follows his guilty plea last December. The case was investigated by the DEA and the Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency, a multi-agency drug task force in Modesto.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the above cases.

Updated April 8, 2015