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Press Release

Mexican National Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Marijuana Cultivation in Wilderness Area in the Sequoia National Forest

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

FRESNO, Calif. — Felipe Angeles Valdez-Colima (Valdez), 36, of Michoacán, Mexico was sentenced today to 10 years in prison for conspiring to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute marijuana in the Kiavah Wilderness area of the Sequoia National Forest, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.

U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd ordered Valdez to pay $7,620 in restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for the damage he caused to the National Forest.

According to court documents, Valdez and his co-defendants, Mauricio Vaca-Bucio, 31, and Rodolfo Torres-Galvan, 30, both of Mexico, were apprehended after a two-month investigation. Law enforcement officers saw Valdez and Torres emerge from the forest at a drop point historically used by marijuana cultivators to access grow sites in that remote area. The men entered a Camaro driven by Vaca and were later stopped in Weldon. Officers found freshly harvested marijuana in their vehicle and located over 1,800 marijuana plants at the grow sites on the interconnected trails from the drop point. The officers also found highly toxic illegal pesticides, including carbofuran and zinc phosphide, in the Camaro and at the grow sites.

The Kiavah Wilderness is part of the National Cooperative Land and Wildlife Management Area and the Bureau of Land Management Jawbone Butterbredt Area of Critical Environmental Concern, which was designated to protect wildlife and preserve Native American heritage.

This case is 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 is prosecuting the case.

On May 13, Torres was sentenced to three years and 10 months in prison. Vaca is scheduled for sentencing on Aug. 5. He faces a minimum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison, along with a $10 million fine. The actual sentence, however, will 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.

Updated June 10, 2019

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