Mexican National Found Guilty Of Marijuana Grow Operation
Boise - Juan Pablo Villasenor-Villa, 28, a Mexican national, was convicted today following a one-week jury trial in federal court in Boise on five charges related to his operation of a marijuana grow operation in two locations in the Boise National Forest and his possession with intent to distribute the marijuana harvested from those operations, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced. Federal and state law enforcement officers eradicated nearly7,000 plants when the marijuana grow operations were found on Little Beaver Creek and Rabbit Creek in September 2013.
The jury convicted Villasenor-Villa on two counts of manufacturing more than 1,000 marijuana plants, one count of possession with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of a controlled substance, one count of operating a continuing criminal enterprise and one count of causing more than $1,000 in damage to public lands. The jury heard evidence during the case that Villasenor-Villa purchased irrigation equipment with cash, drove other defendants into and out of the marijuana grow operations, drove packaged marijuana from the Little Beaver Creek site to a residence in Canyon County and gave direction to his wife and co-defendant Mariah Villasenor-Rodriguez to remove cash from their residence in Canyon County. The jury found Villasenor-Villa not guilty on two counts of aiding and abetting the possession of firearms recovered in the marijuana grow sites.
“The jury’s verdict sends a strong message that those who use and damage our public lands for unlawful purposes and those who traffic in illegal drugs will face swift and sure consequences in Idaho,” said Olson. “The jury found that this defendant operated a criminal enterprise in the Boise National Forest and that his enterprise damaged this precious public resource.”
Each 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 at least five years of supervised release. The charge of possession with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana carries a penalty of not less than five years and up to 40 years in prison, a maximum fine of $5 million and at least three years of supervised release. The charge of operating a continuing criminal enterprise carries a penalty of not less than 20 years in prison, a maximum fine of $2 million and up to five years of supervised released. The charge of causing more than $1,000 damage to public lands carries a penalty of up to ten years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000 and up to three years supervised release.
Villasenor-Villa’s sentencing is scheduled for February 4, 2015, in front of U.S. District Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill, who presided over the trial.
Five co-defendants previously pleaded guilty, and two have been sentenced. The defendant’s wife, Mariah Villasenor-Rodriguez, 22, of Caldwell, pleaded guilty in federal court to possession with intent to distribute and was sentenced on August 8, 2014, to 21 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Gilberto Duran-Contreras, 51, a Mexican national, pleaded guilty in federal court to unlawfully manufacturing more than 1,000 marijuana plants, and damage to government land and was sentenced on July 8, 2014, to 30 months in prison.
Marcos Solano-Farias, 32, and Jose Misael Ayala-Talavera, 20, both Mexican nationals, pleaded guilty to charges of unlawful manufacture with intent to distribute more than 1,000 marijuana plants, illegal possession of a firearm, and damage to government property. Carlos Cerda-Carpio, 40, pleaded guilty in federal court to unlawfully manufacturing more than 1,000 marijuana plants with intent to distribute and illegal possession of a firearm. All three are set for sentencing on December 3, 2014. Duran-Contreras, Solano-Farias, Ayala-Talavera, and Cerda-Carpio, all were arrested in or near the marijuana grow operations on September 11, 2013. Investigators also found and seized two semi-automatic handguns and an AK-47 type rifle at the Rabbit Creek camp.
Olson praised the cooperative law enforcement investigation in this case. “Through the combined work of the OCDETF Task Force agencies and particularly here the Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, Ada and Boise County Sheriff’s Offices, and Nampa Police Department, we together removed this danger to our community and to our public land. I also commend the private citizens who observed the unusual cash purchases of bulk irrigation equipment and contacted law enforcement. Marijuana grow operations such as those identified and removed in this case pose a significant danger to all in Idaho who seek to use our national forests for hiking, hunting and recreation purposes.”
The case was the result of a joint investigation of the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), led by the Drug Enforcement Administration, in conjunction with, U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Canyon County Narcotics Unit, Meridian Police Department, Ada County Sheriff’s Office, Idaho State Police, and the Mini-Cassia Drug Task Force.
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.