Two Area Men Sentenced For Growing Marijuana On Federal Land In Highland County
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA – A pair of men, previously convicted of operating one of the largest marijuana grow operations encountered in the area, were sentenced yesterday afternoon in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Charlottesville.
Joaquin Gonzalez Vicencio, 30, and Joaquin Berumen Cortes, 24, both Mexican citizens who had been living locally in Harrisonburg, Va., were convicted of four counts related to a conspiracy to grow marijuana within the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Highland County following a three-day jury trial in December 2013. Cortes was also convicted of illegally reentering the United States. Yesterday District Court, Vicencio was sentenced to 134 months of federal incarceration to be followed by five years of supervised release. Cortes was sentenced to 120 months of federal incarceration to be followed by five years of supervised release.
“The misuse of federal land to cultivate marijuana remains an enforcement priority of the Department of Justice,” United States Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said today. “These defendants operated one of the largest outdoor marijuana growing sites we have encountered in this or many other districts, conduct for which they have now been held accountable.”
According to evidence presented at trial by Assistant United States Attorney Elizabeth G. Wright, Cortes and Vicencio conspired together to grow at least 4,571 marijuana plants in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Highland County until they were caught on July 2, 2013. Both defendants planted and cultivated the marijuana plants, which were contained in four gardens that were connected by footpaths. Cortes and Vicencio resided in a camp at the grow site and routinely used fertilizer, insecticides, pesticides and rat poison around the area to protect their crop.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the U.S. Forest Service and the Alleghany Highlands Drug Task Force, with assistance from the Drug Enforcement Administration. The Alleghany Highlands Drug Task Force includes officers from the counties of Alleghany, Highland and Bath, as well as the City of Covington and the Virginia State Police. Assistant United States Attorney Elizabeth G. Wright prosecuted the case for the United States.