MAR 11 (FRESNO, Calif.) — Two large-scale marijuana cultivators pleaded guilty and one was sentenced today in federal court, according to Drug Enforcement Administration Acting Special Agent in Charge Bruce C. Balzano and U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner. The defendants were involved in separate marijuana cultivation operations in Kern, Kings, and Stanislaus Counties.
Kern County Warehouse Grow (Case No. 1:10-cr-0379 AWI)
Jeremy Dunn, 19, of Thousand Oaks in Ventura County, pleaded guilty to conspiring to cultivate, distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana grown inside a warehouse in southeast Bakersfield. He is the fourth of five defendants to plead guilty. According to court documents, Dunn and his co-defendants Joseph Taylor, 51, Dustin York, 33, also of Thousand Oaks, and Mark McGrath, 55, of Bakersfield, were found by drug agents inside the warehouse during the execution of a search warrant, which uncovered a sophisticated indoor marijuana cultivation operation. The agents seized approximately 1,161 marijuana plants valued at approximately $4,644,000 and approximately 54.8 pounds of processed marijuana valued at about $219,200. As a result of their investigation, drug agents executed additional search warrants in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties, where Joseph Nolan, 56, of Oak Park in Ventura County, was arrested and charged with the drug conspiracy.
Dunn is scheduled to be sentenced by Senior United States District Judge Anthony W. Ishii on May 20, 2013. He faces a mandatory minimum term of 10 years and maximum of life in prison, along with a fine of up to $4 million. His actual sentence 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.
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bakersfield Police Department, and the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.
Stanislaus County Grows (Case No. 1:11-CR-00339 AWI)
Eudaldo Garcia Salas, aka Eudoldo Calcas Garcia, 55, of Modesto, was sentenced to eight months in prison for his participation in an outdoor marijuana cultivation operation at his home and in a cornfield in Modesto.
According to court documents, the cultivation operation involved 549 marijuana plants that weighed more than 3,000 pounds. Agents also seized an assault weapon with 124 rounds of ammunition from an open detached garage at a residential property next to the cornfield where Garcia was found tending marijuana plants.
This case is the product of an investigation by the DEA and the Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency, a multi-agency drug task force in Modesto.
Upon completion of his prison term, Garcia is subject to deportation to Mexico. Garcia’s co-defendant, Jose Cisneros Garcia, 53, of Modesto has requested a jury trial, which is set for May 21 in federal court.
Kings County Agricultural Grow (Case No. 1:12-cr-0282 AWI)
Rafael Garcia Deniz, 44, of Jalisco, Mexico, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to cultivate, distribute and possess with intent to distribute 394 marijuana plants grown on agricultural land in Kettleman City. Two notices from the U.S. Attorney’s Office had been sent to the landowner regarding the fact that marijuana was unlawfully growing there, subjecting the property to potential forfeiture.
Garcia is scheduled to be sentenced by Senior United States District Judge Anthony W. Ishii on May 20, 2013. He faces a mandatory minimum term of 10 years and maximum of life in prison, along with a fine of up to $10 million. His actual sentence 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.
Co-defendant Gonzalo Gutierrez Lopez, 40, of Jalisco, Mexico is awaiting sentencing. Both Garcia and Gutierrez are subject to deportation upon completion of their prison terms.
This case is the product of an investigation by the DEA, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and Kings County Sheriff’s Office. It is a part of Operation Mercury, an initiative instituted in 2012 that targeted large-scale rural marijuana growers in six counties in California’s Central Valley and resulted in the federal prosecution of 83 individuals and seizure of nearly half a million marijuana plants, approximately 2,728 pounds of processed marijuana, 82 weapons, and $113,783 in cash.
Assistant United States Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting these cases.