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Press Release

Guilty Plea Entered For Marijuana Cultivation In Sequoia National Forest

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California

FRESNO, Calif. — Alfredo Cardenas-Suastegui (“Cardenas”), 56, a native and citizen of Mexico, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana in in the Sequoia National Forest, United States Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced. Cardenas also agreed to pay restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for the damage to public land and natural resources caused by the marijuana cultivation activities.


According to court documents, co-defendants Sair Maldonado-Soto, 22, and Coral Herrera, 21, both of Perris, California, were linked to two separate grow sites in the Lucas Creek drainage and an area known as the "Box 6" site in the Sequoia National Forest after a four-month investigation. The investigation revealed that they were supplying material, equipment, and personnel to the grow sites, which consisted of a total of 10,396 marijuana plants.  They were also responsible for transporting Cardenas and co-defendant Abel Toledo-Villa, 34, of Michoacán, Mexico, away from the Box 6 grow site after it was raided.  Both Cardenas and Toledo-Villa tended to the marijuana plants at the Box 6 grow site. A rifle, ammunition, and processed marijuana were seized from the vehicle occupied by the four defendants as it drove away from the Box 6 grow site. 


The marijuana cultivation operations at both sites caused extensive damage to the land and natural resources. Harmful pesticides and fertilizers, miles of plastic irrigation lines, and large amounts of trash were found at both sites. Native trees and vegetation were also removed to make room for the marijuana plants. 


This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Southern Tri-County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) task force, California Department of Justice’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Kern County Sheriff’s Office, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Fontana Police Department, and Victorville Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting the case.


Cardenas, who has been detained as a flight risk and danger to the community, is scheduled for sentencing on February 12, 2018.   He faces a statutory mandatory minimum penalty of 5 years and a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison, along with a $5 million fine.  Herrera and Maldonado previously entered guilty pleas and are scheduled for sentencing on December 4 and 18, respectively.  Any sentence would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. Toledo-Villa previously entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to 5 years in prison. 

Updated October 17, 2017

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 1:16-cr-106 LJO-SKO