OCT 25 (FRESNO, Calif.) — Erik Forest Basye, aka Erik Bayse, 33, of Sanger, and Peo Xayphengsy, 51, of Alto, Ga., were indicted today for their involvement in a large marijuana cultivation operation in Sanger, Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Anthony D. Williams and U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
According to court records, Fresno County Sheriff narcotic detectives discovered the marijuana operation after they responded to a call regarding men unloading marijuana from a pickup truck on East Ashlan Avenue in Sanger. In responding to the call, the detectives found four men unloading 150 pounds of marijuana from the flatbed of a pickup truck and hanging it in a barn. The detectives also noticed bullet holes in the truck. The four men told the detectives that they had been shot at with a rifle when they were stealing marijuana from a grow site in the area of Zediker and Shaw Avenues in Sanger. The detectives then confirmed that there was a large marijuana grow at Zediker and Shaw Avenues.
Agents then obtained a federal search warrant for the grow site and found 327 marijuana plants, 700 marijuana stalks, and a .22-caliber rifle. Basye and Xayphengsy were found in a communal area near the grow. Basye acknowledged that he had been living in a tent on the property for about three and a half years. Basye indicated that he works at the property hanging marijuana for processing and gets paid with marijuana and food. He admitted that the rifle that was found in his tent was used by him for his protection. Xayphengsy had .22-caliber bullets in his right front shirt pocket and indicated he came to California from Georgia in the spring and had been living in a plywood house on the property.
The indictment charges Basye and Xayphengsy with three narcotics offenses: conspiring to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, manufacturing marijuana and possessing marijuana with intent to distribute it. If convicted, Xayphengsy faces a sentence of five to 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine. Due to a prior felony conviction for cultivating marijuana, Basye faces a sentence of 10 to 30 years in prison and a $10 million fine. The actual sentences, if convicted, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory sentencing factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
The defendants are scheduled for arraignment on October 26, 2012, in federal court in Fresno. The charges are only allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
“This indictment is the product of Operation Mercury, an ongoing initiative targeting large-scale rural marijuana growers in six counties in the Central Valley of California,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “To date, nearly half a million marijuana plants have been seized and 81 defendants have been charged in federal court in Fresno as a result of Operation Mercury. This case, in particular, underscores the escalating violence associated with these agricultural marijuana grows, which ostensibly operate under the guise of medical purpose but are profit-driven and illegal under federal law.”
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Fresno County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting the case.