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Press Release

Madera County Man Charged with Marijuana Cultivation Operation in the Sierra National Forest

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

FRESNO, Calif. — A federal grand jury returned an indictment today against a Madera County man for a marijuana cultivation operation that consisted of over 1,000 marijuana plants grown in the Carter Creek watershed drainage network in the Sierra National Forest in Madera County, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.

The five-count indictment charged Carson Shane Wilhite, 41, of Ahwahnee, with conspiring to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, manufacturing marijuana, damaging public lands and natural resources, possessing firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking, and being a methamphetamine user in possession of firearms. According to the indictment, Wilhite was involved in the marijuana cultivation operation and, in furtherance of his drug trafficking activities, he possessed 12 firearms while using methamphetamine. The cultivation operation is alleged to have caused significant damage to the environment.

This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Madera County Sheriff’s Office. Integral Ecology Research Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the research and conservation of wildlife and their ecosystems, analyzed and documented the environmental damage. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.

If convicted of the drug conspiracy and manufacturing offense, Wilhite faces a mandatory minimum statutory penalty of 10 years and a maximum penalty of life in prison, as well as a $10 million fine. The environmental charge and the charge of being a drug user in possession of firearms carry a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of possessing a firearm in connection with drug trafficking carries a mandatory minimum prison term of five years and a maximum term of life in prison and a $250,000 fine. The defendant faces a mandatory consecutive prison term of five years. In addition, he may be liable for restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for damage sustained to the land and natural resources as a result of the cultivation activities. Any sentence, however, 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. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated July 2, 2020

Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses