FEB 15 (SACRAMENTO, Calif.) —A federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment on Wednesday, charging Zhiqiang Liu, 59, of Oakland, Shihong Chen, 47, Qinghong Li, 44, both of San Francisco, and Jun Mou Peng, 39, with crimes related to cultivating marijuana in seven homes, Drug Enforcement Administration Acting Special Agent in Charge Bruce C. Balzano and United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States Marshals Service, and the Elk Grove Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Olusere Olowoyeye is prosecuting the case.
According to court documents, on January 30, 2013, law enforcement agents conducted searches and seized 2,912 marijuana plants, approximately 100 pounds of processed marijuana, and more than $4,000 in cash. Agents found the defendants in the grow houses and arrested them. They were arraigned on Thursday and pleaded not guilty. A status conference is scheduled for April 24, 2013, before U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller. Seven others were arrested in the houses and face state drug trafficking charges.
According to the criminal complaint, the investigation began in April 2012 when investigators at the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District (SMUD) reported to law enforcement that a residence was using an unusually large amount of electricity, commonly seen in indoor marijuana grows. Further investigation revealed seven houses were involved:
8646 Everidge Court, Sacramento
8270 Cliffcrest Drive, Sacramento
35 Caina Court, Sacramento
3713 45th Avenue, Sacramento
6901 Pradera Mesa Drive, Sacramento
9761 McKenna Drive Elk Grove
8108 Gwerder Court, Elk Grove.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison and a $10 million fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.