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Press Release

Last Defendant Sentenced to 2 Years in Prison for Harmful Marijuana Cultivation Operation in Kiava Wilderness in Sequoia National Forest

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

FRESNO, Calif. — Mauricio Vaca Bucio, 32, of Michoacán, Mexico, was sentenced today to two years in prison for conspiring to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.

Vaca’s sentence follows his guilty plea earlier this year. According to court documents, Vaca and his co-defendants Felipe Angeles Valdez Colima, 35, and Rodolfo Torres Galvan, 29, both Mexican nationals, were apprehended after a two-month investigation in the Kiavah Wilderness, a federally designated wilderness area in the Sequoia National Forest. Law enforcement officers saw Torres and Valdez emerge from the forest and enter a Camaro driven by Vaca. They were subsequently stopped in Weldon. Officers found freshly harvested marijuana in the Camaro and located over 1,800 marijuana plants at the grow site on the trail that led to the drop point. The officers also found deadly illegal pesticides, including carbofuran and zinc phosphide, in both the vehicle and at the grow site. U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd also ordered Vaca to pay $7,620 in restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for the damage he caused to the National Forest.

The United States Congress designated the Kiavah Wilderness in 1994, and it is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service. This wilderness area is part of the National Cooperative Land and Wildlife Management Area and the Bureau of Land Management’s Jawbone-Butterbredt Area of Critical Environmental Concern.

This case was the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service with assistance from Enforcement and Removal Operations of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California National Guard, Kern County Sheriff’s Office, and Kern County Probation Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar prosecuted the case.

Valdez and Torres pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 10 years and three years and 10 months in prison, respectively.

Updated August 5, 2019

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 1:18-cr-158 DAD