Drug Enforcement Administration

San Francisco

Christopher Nielsen, Special Agent in Charge

September 19, 2011

Contact: Casey Rettig

Phone Number: (415) 436-7994

East Coast Distributors Of Fresno-Grown Marijuana Plead Guilty

FRESNO, CA - United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner, Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Anthony D. Williams, and Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims announced that Marquis Allen Meca, 27, of New Bedford, Mass., and Ruddys A. Pimentel, 29, of Roslindale, Mass., pleaded guilty today to conspiring to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute marijuana grown in Fresno under the guise of being “medicinal.”

According to their plea agreements, Meca and Pimentel admitted that they and their co-defendant, Ernson Merisier, 27, of Holbrook, Mass., received the California marijuana for distribution in Massachusetts. According to court documents, the marijuana was grown in agricultural fields in Fresno that were posted with medicinal marijuana recommendations from two local doctors. Rather than distributing the marijuana in California for medicinal purposes, however, co-defendants Bounepheng Savongsy, 51; Phousangkhy Phanthadeth, aka Phou, 38; Manop Souksavath, 38; all of Fresno, conspired to ship the marijuana to Merisier, Meca, and Pimentel in the Boston area, where the drug was sold for about $3,000 per pound, about three times the amount it sells for in California. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has not legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes.

In their plea agreements, Meca and Pimentel also admitted that on November 4, 2010, Phanthadeth and Souksavath were arrested in Utah following a traffic stop of their vehicle, which contained about 184 pounds of the Fresno-grown marijuana. Law enforcement officials then supervised the delivery of the marijuana to Merisier, Meca, and Pimentel in Roslindale, Mass. Merisier paid nearly $75,000 in cash as partial payment for the total price -- $570,400 -- of the marijuana. The defendants were then arrested and law enforcement searched locations in Fresno, Cedar City, Utah, and Roslindale, Mass. and seized approximately 4,620 live marijuana plants, approximately 3,563 pounds of processed marijuana, 11 firearms, one 2006 Dodge Charger, and approximately $113,151 in cash.

As a result of this investigation, Douangchanh Keovilayvanh, 40, of Sanger, Calif., has been charged in a separate federal indictment with possessing marijuana with intent to distribute and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. The charges are only allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Meca and Pimentel are scheduled for sentencing on December 2, 2011 by United States District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill. Savongsy, Phanthadeth, Merisier, and Souksavath previously entered guilty pleas and are also scheduled for sentencing before Judge O’Neill. Savongsy, Merisier, Meca, and Pimentel face a maximum prison term of five years in prison, along with a fine of $250,000. Phanthadeth and Souksavath face a minimum term of five years in prison, a maximum prison term of 40 years, and a fine of up to $5 million. The actual sentences, however, will 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.

This case is the product of an extensive investigation by the DEA offices in Fresno, Salt Lake City, and Boston, and the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, California Department of Justice Central Valley Marijuana Investigation Team, Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, Utah Highway Patrol, Boston Police Department, and North Attleboro Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.

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