April 27, 2015
Contact: Casey Rettig
Phone Number: (415) 436-7900
Fourth Defendant Sentenced For Marijuana Cultivation Operation In Sequoia National Forest
FRESNO, Calif. - David Arreola, 29, of Michoacán, Mexico, was sentenced today to seven and a half years in prison for conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana grown on public land and possessing a firearm in furtherance of the conspiracy.
According to court documents, Arreola and his co-defendants, Hernan Cortez-Villaseñor, 40; Homero Pacheco-Rivera, 22; Alfonso Cornejo, 32; and Jose Luis García-Villa, 22, all of Michoacán, Mexico, conspired in the cultivation of approximately 8,876 marijuana plants in the Greenhorn Creek area of the Sequoia National Forest in Kern County. Arreola also admitted that he possessed a 9 millimeter semi-automatic handgun in furtherance of the conspiracy and was in possession of the weapon at the time of his apprehension at the grow site by law enforcement officers.
In sentencing Arreola, Senior U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii also ordered Arreola to make restitution to the U.S. Forest Service of $3,300 for damage to the land and natural resources caused by the marijuana operation. According to court documents, the Greenhorn Creek site sustained extensive damage as a result of the operation. Native oak trees and other vegetation were cut down or otherwise killed to make room for the marijuana plants. The soil was tilled, and fertilizers and pesticides, including Fosfuro de Zinc, an illegal rat poison, were spread throughout the site. As noted in his plea agreement, Fosfuro de Zinc contains zinc phosphide, a highly toxic chemical that can sicken or kill human beings. When Arreola was apprehended, he was sick and had to be air-lifted out of the grow site. According to Arreola, several other growers had previously left the site, because they were sick.
Three of Arreola’s co-defendants previously entered guilty pleas and were sentenced. Cortez-Villaseñor was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and Cornejo and García-Villa were both sentenced to 3 years and 10 months in prison. Pacheco-Rivera is a fugitive. Upon completion of his prison sentence, Arreola, like his co-defendants, faces potential removal to Mexico.
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’(ICE) Homeland Security (HSI), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation (EPA-CID), and the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Karen Escobar prosecuted the case.