Skip to main content
Press Release

Supplier Of Marijuana Cultivation Operation In The Sequoia National Forest Pleads Guilty

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

FRESNO, Calif. — Sair Maldonado-Soto (Maldonado), 22, of Perris, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute, and manufacturing marijuana in connection with two separate large-scale marijuana cultivation operations in Kern County in the Sequoia National Forest, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

Maldonado also agreed to pay restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for the damage to public land and natural resources caused by the marijuana cultivation activities.

According to court documents, Maldonado and co-defendant Coral Herrera, 21, also of Perris, were linked to grow sites in the Lucas Creek drainage and an area known as the Box 6 site after a four-month investigation. The investigation revealed that they were supplying material, equipment, and personnel to the grow sites, which consisted of 10,396 marijuana plants. The marijuana cultivation operations caused extensive damage to the land and natural resources. Harmful pesticides and fertilizers, miles of plastic irrigation lines, and large amounts of trash were found at both sites. Native trees and vegetation were also removed to make room for the marijuana plants.

This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Southern Tri‑County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force, California Department of Justice’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Kern County Sheriff’s Office, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Fontana Police Department, and Victorville Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting the case.

Maldonado is scheduled for sentencing on December 18, 2017. He faces a statutory mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison, along with a possible maximum $5 million fine. Herrera previously entered a guilty plea and is scheduled for sentencing on December 4. Codefendant Toledo-Villa previously entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to five years in prison. Codefendant Cardenas-Suastegui has requested a jury trial, which is set for November 7. The charges are only allegations; Cardenas-Suastegui is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated September 25, 2017

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 1:16-cr-106 LJO