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Justice News

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

Monday, February 10, 2014

Fresno And Tulare County Marijuana Growers Sentenced

FRESNO, Calif. — Jose Guadalupe Rodriguez, 19, of Terra Bella, and Erik Forest Basye, 34, of Sanger, were sentenced today for their involvement in separate agricultural marijuana cultivation cases, U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

1,313 Marijuana Plants, Two Firearms Seized from Tulare County Ag Grow
(1:12-cr-341 LJO)

Following his guilty plea last year, Jose Guadalupe Rodriguez was sentenced to one year and one day in prison, to be followed by two years supervised release, 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 Rodriguez. 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), and the Sheriff’s Offices of Tulare and Ventura Counties.

327 Marijuana Plants/Firearm Seized from Fresno County Ag Grow (1:12CR365 AWI)

Following his guilty plea last year, Erik Forest Basye was sentenced to 21 months in prison, to be followed by three years supervised release, for his involvement in a marijuana cultivation operation on agricultural land in Sanger. According to court records, Fresno County Sheriff narcotic detectives discovered the marijuana operation after they responded to a call regarding men unloading marijuana from a pickup truck on East Ashlan Avenue in Sanger. In responding to the call, the detectives found four men unloading 150 pounds of marijuana from the flatbed of a pickup truck and hanging it in a barn. The detectives also noticed bullet holes in the truck. The four men told the detectives that they had been shot at with a rifle when they were stealing marijuana from a grow site in the area of Zediker and Shaw Avenues in Sanger. The detectives then confirmed that there was a large marijuana grow at Zediker and Shaw Avenues.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents then obtained a federal search warrant for the grow site and found 327 marijuana plants, 700 marijuana stalks, and a .22-caliber rifle. Basye was found near the grow. Basye acknowledged that he had been living in a tent on the property for about three and a half years and that he worked at the property hanging marijuana for processing and was paid with marijuana and food.

This case was investigated by the DEA and Fresno County Sheriff’s Office. Both of these cases were investigated under the umbrella of Operation Mercury, a multi-county marijuana enforcement effort in 2012 focused on the large-scale cultivation of marijuana on agricultural lands. To date, as a result of Operation Mercury, 84 individuals have been charged federally with 45 defendants sentenced. Further, as a result of Operation Mercury, law enforcement officers eradicated nearly half a million marijuana plants and seized approximately 4,714.64 pounds of processed marijuana, 82 weapons, and $113,783 in cash.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar prosecuted both cases.

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Updated April 8, 2015