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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Idaho

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, February 24, 2014

Another Mexican National Admits Growing Marijuana On Public Lands

Two Plead Guilty in Boise County Marijuana Grow Case

BOISE — Carlos Cerda-Carpio, 40, a Mexican national, pleaded guilty today in federal court to unlawfully manufacturing more than 1,000 marijuana plants with intent to distribute and illegal possession of a firearm, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced. A co-defendant, Mariah Villasenor-Rodriguez, 22, of Caldwell, Idaho, pleaded guilty to related charges of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Both defendants appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy W. Dale at the federal courthouse in Boise.

According to the plea agreements, on September 11, 2013, law enforcement conducted enforcement actions on an outdoor marijuana growing operation in the Boise National Forest, a few miles from Highway 21 in Boise County. Cerda-Carpio, along with co-defendants Marcos Solano-Farias and Jose Misael Ayala-Talavera, was apprehended by the officers at a camp located next to a marijuana grow site on Rabbit Creek, with 1,411 live plants as well as harvested marijuana. According to the plea agreements, investigators found and seized two semi-automatic handguns, an AK-47 type rifle, in the camp, and several hundred marijuana plants that had already been harvested from the growing operation. Investigators located and eradicated all live marijuana plants. A few days later, law enforcement took down a related grow site at Little Beaver Creek, where they removed 5,463 marijuana plants.

According to Villasenor-Rodriguez’s plea agreement, more than 100 kilos of harvested and packaged marijuana was found at the house she shared with her husband, lead co-defendant Juan Pablo Villasenor-Villa, and in another house in Caldwell.

Cerda-Carpio and five co-defendants were indicted by a federal grand jury on October 9, 2013, on charges of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana, possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking, and injury to federal public lands. Juan Pablo Villasenor-Villa is currently set for trial on July 21, 2014. Gilberto Duran-Contreras is scheduled to plead guilty on March 3, 2014. Marcos Solano-Farias and Jose Misael Ayala-Talavera pleaded guilty on February 13, 2014, to related charges; sentencing is set for May 14.

The charge of manufacturing more than 1,000 marijuana plants with intent to distribute carries a penalty of not less than ten years up to life in prison, a maximum fine of $10 million, and five years of supervised release. The charges of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person—an undocumented alien—and injury to government property are each punishable by up to ten years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release. The charge of possession of more than 100 kilos of marijuana with intent to distribute carries a penalty of not less than five years and up to 40 years in prison, a maximum fine of $5 million, and five years of supervised release.

Villasenor-Rodriguez is scheduled to be sentenced on May 14, and Cerda-Carpio on May 15, 2014, before Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill.

“Vigorous prosecution of those who grow illegal drugs on federal land is a high priority of this office,” said Olson. “Those who operate marijuana grows not only traffic in illegal drugs, but they also damage wildlife and the environment and, through their possession and possible use of firearms, pose a significant danger to all Idahoans who seek to use our national forests for hiking, hunting and recreation purposes.” Olson noted that Cerda-Carpia is the eighth defendant in 2014 to plead guilty or be sentenced in Idaho on federal drug trafficking charges that also involved the unlawful use, possession or sale of firearms. “Drugs and guns are a dangerous and often violent combination,” Olson said. “Today’s guilty pleas demonstrate that federal gun laws are carefully targeted at those who use or possess firearms for unlawful purposes.”

The case is the result of a joint investigation result of the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), which included the cooperative law enforcement efforts of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Land Management, and United States Forest Service, with assistance from the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, Boise County Sheriff’s Office, Boise Police Department, City County Narcotics Unit (Canyon County Sheriff’s Office and Caldwell Police Department), the Idaho National Guard, Meridian Police Department, Nampa Police Department, Spokane Police Department, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and Washington State Police.

The OCDETF program is a federal, multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force that supplies supplemental federal funding to federal and state agencies involved in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of major drug trafficking organizations.

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Updated December 15, 2014