Drug Enforcement Administration

San Francisco

Christopher Nielsen, Special Agent in Charge

October 14, 2011

Contact: Casey Rettig

Phone Number: (415) 436-7994

Madera Vineyard Marijuana Cultivator Sentenced For Firearm Possession

FRESNO, CA - United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner and Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Anthony D. Williams announced that United States District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill sentenced Julio Ramirez Pérez, 33, an undocumented alien from Oaxaca, Mexico, to five years in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release, for possessing several firearms in connection with a marijuana cultivation operation in a vineyard in Madera.

According to court documents, on June 16, 2010, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Avenue 8 and Road 24 in Madera County after receiving information that marijuana was growing in a vineyard there. They found 3,792 marijuana plants growing underneath grapevines. In a single-wide mobile home on the property, officers found Ramirez Pérez in the living room along with a 12-gauge shotgun with ammunition. Ramirez Pérez admitted that he resided in the living room.

On August 1, 2011, Ramirez Pérez pleaded guilty. According to the plea agreement, in addition to the shotgun and ammunition, agents found a loaded 9-mm handgun and a loaded sawed-off .22-caliber rifle in the mobile home.

Last month, his co-defendant, Antonio Pérez, 40, an undocumented alien from Guanajuato, Mexico, who was also found on the property, was similarly sentenced to five years in prison.

This case was the product of an investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement (DEA), Madera County Narcotic Enforcement (MADNET), and Madera County Gang Enforcement (MADGET) under the umbrella of Operation Trident, an intensive multi-agency effort in 2010 that focused primarily on the eradication of marijuana from public land. Other agencies that participated in Operation Trident include the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land (BLM), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’(ICE) Homeland Security (HSI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and (ATF), California National Guard Counterdrug Task Force, California Department of Fish and Game, California Bureau of Narcotic (BNE), Madera County Sheriff’s Office, Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, the Central Valley Marijuana Investigation (CVMIT), and the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, which spearheaded the operation. To date, 65 defendants have been convicted in federal court as a result of Operation Trident. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Escobar prosecuted this case.

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