FRESNO, CA -- United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner and Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Anthony D. Williams announced today that Marco Antonio Lopez-Florez, 34, a professional soccer player from Guadalajara, Mexico, and Ernesto Rocha, 21, of Bakersfield, were each sentenced to 10 years in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release, for a conspiracy to cultivate and distribute marijuana. Lopez-Florez and Rocha were also ordered to forfeit firearms that they had in their possession: a 9 mm Ruger pistol, a Ruger Speed Six .357 Magnum handgun with a loaded magazine, and a Remington-scoped rifle.
This case is a product of an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, targeting the cultivation of marijuana on public lands. OCDETF is a focused interagency program investigating and prosecuting the most significant drug trafficking organizations throughout the United States by leveraging the combined expertise of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. This OCDETF investigation was led by the DEA Bakersfield Resident Office with assistance from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Forest Service, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, the Bakersfield Police Department, and the Southern Tri-County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting the case.
Lopez-Florez and Rocha pleaded guilty in March 2011, admitting that they were involved in the cultivation of approximately 6,540 marijuana plants on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in the Piute Mountain area of Kern County. When law enforcement officers searched the grow operation, Lopez-Florez, Rocha and co-defendant Jesus Rodriguez Salcido, 23, of Jalisco, Mexico, were in possession of firearms and all tried to flee. Salcido has pleaded not guilty plea and is scheduled to appear for a status conference before Senior U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger on May 31, 2011.