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Press Release

Marijuana Cultivators Sentenced

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

FRESNO, Calif. — Three men were sentenced today for their involvement in two separate marijuana cultivation operations based in Kern and Inyo Counties, according to U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner.

1,387 Pounds of Processed Marijuana/338 Marijuana Plants Seized from Arvin Grow (1:13CR28 AWI)

Bernabe Hernandez, aka Juan Hernandez Marin, aka Raul Hernandez, aka Bernabe Villa-Lobos, 54, of Arvin, was sentenced following his guilty plea on March 31, 2014, to one and a half years in prison and ordered to forfeit $178,179 to the United States. According to court documents, Hernandez is the owner and resident of a 29 acre parcel on Wheeler Ridge Road in Arvin where Kern County Sheriff deputies found and seized 1,387 pounds of processed marijuana and 338 marijuana plants during the execution of a search warrant there. They also found scales, packaging material, and ammunition.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Escobar handled the criminal case and Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather Mardel Jones handled the forfeiture of assets.

3,855 Marijuana Plants/350 Pounds of Processed Marijuana/Illegal Pesticides/Six Firearms Seized in Connection with Inyo National Forest Grow (1:13-cr-340 LJO)

Jose Santoyo-Aguilar (Santoyo), 26, of Michoacàn, Mexico, and Jose Salvador Garcia Rodriguez (Garcia), aka Christopher Lee Headspeth, 23, of Guanajuato, Mexico, were sentenced following their guilty pleas earlier this year. Santoyo was sentenced to five years and 10 months for his role in supplying equipment and supplies to a marijuana cultivation site in the Inyo National Forest. Garcia was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for working at the grow site. Both were also ordered to pay $6,572 in restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for damage caused to the public land as a result of their cultivation operation. Upon completion of their prison sentences, Santoyo and Garcia face deportation to Mexico.

According to court documents, U.S. Forest Service agents found a marijuana cultivation operation in the Hogback Creek area of the Inyo National Forest. The load vehicles were tracked to several stash houses in Riverside County. Ultimately, agents executed four search warrants at the grow site and three residences in Riverside County.

On April 14, 2014, a third defendant in this case, Javier Rios Morales, of Jalisco, Mexico, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

Agents seized 3,405 marijuana plants, 350 pounds of processed marijuana, three air rifles, two digital scales, 2,200 pounds of trash, and illegal pesticides, at the Hogback Creek grow site. Photos of a dead bear and fox were also found in the cameras of one of the growers who was arrested and prosecuted in Inyo County. According to U.S. Forest Service biologists, the photos do not depict natural deaths and the foaming on the mouth of the dead bear is consistent with poisoning caused by the illegal pesticides.

Agents in Riverside County seized two pounds of methamphetamine, a methamphetamine laboratory, five firearms, $10,000 in cash, and two pounds of marijuana from a stash house in Moreno Valley. Agents seized another 450 marijuana plants at a stash house in Homeland. At another stash house in Romoland, agents seized a firearm, marijuana shake and residue, and shipping labels consistent with the shipment of marijuana to Chicago.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Homeland Security Investigations of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, and Riverside County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Karen A. Escobar handled the federal prosecution.

Updated April 8, 2015