Two Mexican Nationals Plead Guilty To Growing Marijuana On Public Lands
BOISE — Marcos Solano-Farias, 32, and Jose Misael Ayala-Talavera, 20, both Mexican nationals, pleaded guilty today 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, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced. The men appeared today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald E. Bush at the federal courthouse in Boise.
According to the plea agreements, on September 11, 2013, law enforcement conducted enforcement actions on two outdoor marijuana growing operations in the Boise National Forest, a few miles from Highway 21 in Boise County. Solano-Farias, and Ayala-Talavera were apprehended by law enforcement 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 SKS or 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. Law enforcement also found a related grow site at Beaver Creek, where they removed 5,463 marijuana plants.
Solano-Farias and Ayala-Talavera, along with four 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, Gilberto Contreras, and Carlos Cerdo-Carpia are currently set for trial on March 17, 2014. Mariah Villasenor-Rodriguez, of Caldwell, Idaho, is scheduled to plead guilty on February 24, 2014, to an information charging her with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
“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 Solano-Farias and Ayala-Talavera are the sixth and seventh defendants 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 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 up to 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.
Solano-Farias and Ayala-Talavera are scheduled to be sentenced on May 14, 2014, before Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill.
The case is the result of a joint investigation 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.