JULY 22 (FRESNO, Calif.) — Three marijuana cultivators in Fresno County pleaded guilty and one was sentenced today for their involvement in separate large-scale marijuana cultivation operations in Fresno County, Acting Special Agent in Charge Bruce C. Balzano and U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
1,429 Marijuana Plants Seized in Squaw Valley (Case No. 1:12-cr-325 AWI)
Kimxay Siribounthong, 55, of Viengtaine, Laos, was sentenced to two years and three months in prison for conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana at a grow site on Ripple Lane in Squaw Valley. His sentence follows his guilty plea in May. According to court documents, Siribounthong told DEA agents that he had grown marijuana at the same location the year before and would grow marijuana there again next year. Although Siribounthong indicated he had a California medical marijuana recommendation, he did not possess one and none was posted at the grow site.
1,613 Marijuana Plants Seized in Mendota (Case No. 1:13-cr-51 AWI)
Marcos Antonio Robles, 36, of Fresno, pleaded guilty to conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana at an address on Whitesbridge Road in Mendota. According to court documents, Robles was involved in the cultivation of 959 marijuana plants last August and was responsible for the indoor cultivation of another 657 marijuana plants in January. He faces a mandatory minimum prison term of 10 years and a maximum term of life, along with a $10 million fine. The actual sentence, however, 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. He is scheduled for sentencing before Senior U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii on October 7, 2013.
2,932 Marijuana Plants Seized in Rural Southwest Fresno (Case No. 1:12-cr-341 LJO)
Say Taylor, 51, of Los Angeles, pleaded guilty to the unlawful use of a cellphone to facilitate a drug felony. According to court documents, DEA agents and Fresno County Sheriff’s detectives found Taylor at a marijuana grow site on Marks Avenue in rural southwest Fresno during the execution of a federal search warrant. Law enforcement eradicated 2,932 marijuana plants from there and seized a firearm that Taylor had in his possession. Taylor faces a maximum prison term of four years and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, 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. He is scheduled for sentencing before U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill on February 2, 2014.
327 Marijuana Plants Seized after Shots Fired from Rural Northeast Fresno County (Case No. 1:12-cr-365 AWI)
Peo Xayphengsy, 52, of Alto, Ga., pleaded guilty today to conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute 327 marijuana plants seized from a rural Fresno County location last October. According to court documents, Xaphengsy and three other individuals were found at the grow site during the execution of a federal search warrant after Fresno County Sheriff’s Office detectives received a report that, several days earlier, shots had been fired from that location. In pleading guilty, Xayphengsy acknowledged that he had been living in a plywood house on the property since April 2012.
All four cases were investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Fresno County Sheriff’s Office under the umbrella of Operation Mercury, an intensive marijuana eradication and enforcement effort initiated in 2012 by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in six counties to address the increasing problem of the cultivation of marijuana on agricultural land. To date, Operation Mercury has resulted in the seizure of nearly half a million marijuana plants and the prosecution of 84 defendants in federal court in Fresno.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar prosecuted the above criminal cases.