Lake County Man Convicted of Conspiracy and Cultivation of more than 24,000 Marijuana Plants
SEP 3 -- SAN FRANCISCO/SAN JOSE/OAKLAND – United States Attorney Joseph P. Russoniello and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Javier F. Peña, announced that Charles “Eddy” Lepp was convicted of charges of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute and cultivation of more than1000 marijuana plants by a federal jury on September 2, 2008. The jury, after deliberating for approximately three hours, found that Lepp had grown 24,784 marijuana plants in Upper Lake, California on approximately 20 acres of land he owned near his home adjacent to State Highway 20, a main road through Lake County. The guilty verdict followed a one week jury trial before U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel.
Evidence at trial established that Mr. Lepp, age 56 of Upper Lake, agreed with others to possess the marijuana with the intent to distribute it and did in fact cultivate more than 1000 marijuana plants.
The defendant’s marijuana cultivation came to the attention of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department after receiving reports from the public that a large crop of marijuana was growing in public view off of Highway 20.
Mr. Lepp was indicted by a federal grand jury on September 28, 2004. The government also alleged that the defendant sold one pound of marijuana to a undercover law enforcement officer in January, 2005 in a superseding indictment. This charge was severed from this trial, but the jury heard testimony about the sale after the defendant’s testimony strongly inferred that he did not sell marijuana.
The sentencing of Mr. Lepp is scheduled for December 1, 2008, before Judge Patel in San Francisco. The maximum statutory penalty for each count, conspiracy in violation of Title 21, United States Code, section 846 and cultivation of marijuana in violation of Title 21, United States Code, section 841, is life imprisonment with a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $4,000,000. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
Dave Hall is the Assistant United States Attorney who is prosecuting the case. The prosecution is the result of the investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, and the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department.