Multi-County Marijuana Cultivation Case Update
FRESNO, Calif. — A marijuana cultivators was sentenced and two entered guilty pleas today for their involvement in separate large-scale marijuana cultivation cases involving private lands in Stanislaus, Mariposa, Fresno, and Kern Counties, U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
920 Marijuana Plants/Processed Marijuana/Assault Rifle Seized from Kern County Ranch (1:12-cr-299 LJO)
Jorge Alberto Torres, 28, of Bakersfield, was sentenced to three years and 10 months in prison for conspiring to cultivate, distribute and possess with intent to distribute 920 marijuana plants grown on a private ranch in Kern County without permission or knowledge of the landowner. According to court records, agents seized a loaded assault firearm and three pounds of processed marijuana. In sentencing Torres, U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill also considered evidence that Torres had in the past been captured on trail cameras in the Sequoia National Forest making supply drops to another marijuana cultivation site in the Long Meadow Creek area in Tulare County. Upon completion of his prison term, Torres is subject to deportation to Mexico.
This case was the product of an investigation by the DEA, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.
907 Marijuana Plants/Firearm Seized from Stanislaus County Riverside Grow
(Case No. 1:12-cr-342 AWI)
Sengphachanh Boungnavong, 34, of Fresno, pleaded guilty to conspiring to cultivate, distribute and possess with intent to distribute 907 marijuana plants grown in rural Newman, beside the San Joaquin River. During the execution of a search warrant there, drug agents found Boungnavong at the cultivation site, and 907 marijuana plants, a handgun, respirators, motion detectors, chemicals, fertilizers, and purportedly medical marijuana recommendations from a doctor who has been charged in another federal case with the unlawful distribution of other controlled substances.
Boungnavong faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a fine of up to $1 million. He is scheduled for sentencing on April 28, 2014. This case is the product of an investigation by the DEA and the Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency, a multi-agency drug task force in Modesto.
6,993 Marijuana Plants/Firearms Seized from Mariposa County Grow
(Case No. 1:13-cr-174 AWI-BAM)
Salvador Gonzalez Farias (“Gonzalez”), 34, of Guerrero, Mexico, pleaded guilty to being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm seized from a rural residential parcel in Mariposa County where law enforcement officers located 6,993 marijuana plants. According to court documents, the grow site was located by Mariposa County Sheriff’s deputies responding to a call for suspected cockfighting. A follow-up search warrant resulted in the seizure of marijuana plants from indoor and outdoor locations on the property, along with two rifles.
Gonzalez is scheduled to be sentenced on April 14, 2014, by United States District Judge Anthony W. Ishii. He faces a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, a fine of up to $250,000, and deportation to Mexico upon completion of any prison term imposed. This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Department.
Both Gonzalez and Boungnavong’s actual sentences 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.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar is handling the above marijuana prosecutions.