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Press Release

Guilty Plea of Sequoia Forest Marijuana Cultivator

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


FRESNO, Calif. —Uriel Silva-Garcia (Silva), 24, of Turicato, Michoacán, Mexico, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana and possessing firearms in furtherance of a large-scale cultivation operation located near Little Poso Creek in the Sequoia National Forest, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

According to court documents, Silva was paid to plant and tend about 8,596 marijuana plants on public land. To facilitate the cultivation activities, Silva possessed a loaded rifle and handgun. The cultivation caused extensive damage to the land and natural resources. Native trees and plants were cut down and steep hillsides were terraced to plant the marijuana. Pesticides, including malathion, fertilizer, water lines, trash, clothing and camping equipment were scattered throughout the site. Silva has agreed to reimburse the U.S. Forest Service for the cleanup costs.

Co-defendant Antonio Garcia-Villa, 46, pleaded guilty on October 26, 2015. Both defendants are scheduled to be sentenced on January 19, 2016, by Senior U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii. They face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine for the drug conspiracy and a mandatory minimum consecutive term of five years in prison for the firearm charge. The actual sentences, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory sentencing factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. They also face deportation to Mexico upon completion of any prison term imposed.

This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting the case.

Updated November 2, 2015

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 1:15-cr-159-AWI