Mexican National Sentenced for Marijuana Cultivation in Protected Wilderness
FRESNO, Calif. — Rodolfo Torres-Galvan, 30, (Torres), of Michoacán, Mexico, was sentenced today to three years and 10 months in prison for conspiring to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
Torres’ sentencing follows his guilty plea entered earlier this year. According to court documents, Torres and his co-defendants, Mauricio Vaca-Bucio (Vaca), 31, and Felipe Angeles Valdez-Colima (Valdez), 35, 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. In sentencing Torres, U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd also ordered Torres to pay $7,620 in restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for the environmental damage caused by the cultivation operation.
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 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.
Valdez and Vaca have pleaded guilty and are scheduled for sentencing on May 20 and July 29, respectively. They face 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 sentences, 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.