Foreign National Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison for Firearm Offense, Growing Marijuana in Mendocino National Forest, and Destruction of National Lands
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Ivan Espinoza Villafana, 25, a Mexican national, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Troy L. Nunley to five years in prison and restitution of $14,400 for possession of a firearm by an illegal alien, cultivation of marijuana, and depredation of public lands and resources, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
According to court documents, on August 19, 2014, law enforcement officers entered a marijuana cultivation site near Ice Springs in the Mendocino National Forest in Glenn County where 732 marijuana plants were growing. After seeing law enforcement approach, Villafana fled. He was apprehended and arrested at the site. At the time of his arrest, Villafana had a loaded Smith & Wesson revolver tucked in his waistband. Officers also found a rifle in the camp area of the site. Villafana has been in custody since his arrest.
Marijuana cultivation at the site caused significant natural resource damage. Irrigation piping diverted water from a nearby stream to the marijuana plants, which require approximately 6-8 gallons of water per plant per day. Law enforcement also observed numerous bags of fertilizer and pesticides, which were used to grow marijuana. A U.S. Forest Service hydrologist who surveyed the site concluded that fertilizer and pesticides impact runoff into streams and would damage water quality and harm wildlife, as animals in the National Forest are likely to ingest the pesticides and fertilizers. Further, marijuana cultivators at the site cut and cleared trees and vegetation in the National Forest to make room for marijuana plants. Repairing and rehabilitating the damage to the National Forest from this cultivation will cost the United States between $14,400 and $73,500.
This case was the product of an investigation by the United States Forest Service, Glenn County Sheriff’s Office, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Assistant United States Attorney Christiaan Highsmith prosecuted the case.