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Press Release

Mexican Nationals Charged with Marijuana Cultivation in Sierra National Forest in Madera County

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

FRESNO, Calif. — A federal grand jury returned a three-count indictment today against Lester Eduardo Cardenas-Flores, 23, and Luis Madrigal-Reyes, 36, illegal aliens from Mexico, charging them with conspiring to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, manufacturing marijuana, and damaging public lands and natural resources, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.

According to court documents, law enforcement officers located over 1,000 marijuana plants in the Dutch Oven Creek area of the Sierra National Forest in Madera County. Both defendants were found in a processing area near growing marijuana plants and fled when law enforcement officers arrived to investigate.

The marijuana cultivation operation caused significant damage to the land and natural resources. Highly toxic, illegal pesticides, including carbofuran, were found at the site.

This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service with assistance from the California National Guard, California Department of Justice’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), and Madera County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.

If convicted of the drug conspiracy and manufacturing offense, the defendants face a mandatory minimum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison, as well as a $10 million fine. The environmental charge carries a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. In addition, both men 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 defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated August 29, 2019

Drug Trafficking