August 30, 2012
Contact: Casey Rettig
Phone Number: (415) 436-7900
Five Indicted For Kern County Marijuana Cultivation Operations
FRESNO, CA - Five defendants were charged today in two separate indictments for their involvement in marijuana cultivation operations in Kern County, U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
“These indictments represent the product of an ongoing multi-agency enforcement effort spanning six counties in the Central Valley and intended to stem the proliferation of industrial-sized marijuana grows on our public and agricultural lands,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner.
In the first indictment, Rufino Orozco-Martinez, 32, an undocumented alien from Guerrero, Mexico; Jorge A. Torres, 27, of Michoacán, Mexico; Salvador Gallegos Jr., 22, and Christopher Norberto Gallegos, 19, both of Temecula in Riverside County, were charged with a drug conspiracy, marijuana cultivation, and the possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Orozco-Martinez was also charged with violating immigration laws. According to court documents, law enforcement officers discovered a large marijuana cultivation site on private ranch land off of Breckenridge Road in the Sierra foothills in Kern County. According to previously filed court documents, during the execution of a search warrant, officers found the four defendants at the grow site and apprehended them after shots were fired at the officers. The officers seized approximately 920 marijuana plants and an assault rifle.
In the second indictment, Osmin Norberto Mejia, aka Osmin Mejia-Mazariegos, 29, an undocumented alien from Guatemala, was charged with a drug conspiracy, marijuana cultivation and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, as well as violating immigration law and damaging public land and natural resources. According to court documents, Mejia was found armed with a loaded shotgun at a marijuana cultivation site in the Slick Rock area of the Sequoia National Forest. Law enforcement officers seized approximately 3,773 marijuana plants. Native vegetation was cleared and the land terraced in order to cultivate the marijuana. If convicted of the most serious drug crimes, Mejia faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison, a maximum penalty of life in prison, and a $10 million fine.
If convicted of the drug crimes, the defendants face a mandatory minimum prison term of five years, a maximum prison term of 40 years, and a fine of up to $5 million. The actual sentences, if convicted, 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.
The defendants have been ordered detained pretrial and are scheduled for arraignment and plea on the indictment next week in federal court in Fresno. The charges are only allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
These cases are the product of investigations by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’(ICE) Homeland Security (HSI), and the Kern County Sheriff’s Department. Assistant United States Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting the cases.