BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -
Two large-scale marijuana cultivators entered guilty pleas and one cultivator was sentenced on Monday.
All three federal defendants were involved in marijuana cultivation operations in Kern County.
Second Guilty Plea in Public Lands Case
Andrés Muñoz Villa, 42, of Michoacán, Mexico, pleaded guilty today to possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime for a marijuana cultivation operation in the Burnt Canyon area of the Sequoia National Forest.
According to court documents, on August 24, 2011, law enforcement officers found Muñoz guarding 2,953 marijuana plants that he helped tend. He had in his possession a loaded .38-caliber handgun. Native plants were cleared to make room for the marijuana.
In addition, trash, fertilizer, and insecticide containers were found stored within a few feet of Burnt Canyon Creek. Muñoz has agreed to pay $1,482 in restitution to the Forest Service to cover the cost of cleaning up the land.
Muñoz is scheduled for sentencing on April 8. He faces a prison term of five years and a fine of $250,000.
Muñoz’s co-defendant, Cirrilo Gutierrez-Garcia, pleaded guilty and was sentenced on July 9, 2012, to two and a half years in prison.
Second Guilty Plea in Kern County Ranch Case
Rufino Orozco Martinez, 32, of Arvin, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to cultivate, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute 920 marijuana plants that were grown on private ranch land in Kern County.
Orozco is scheduled for sentencing on April 22. He faces a mandatory prison term of five years and a maximum prison term of 40 years, along with a fine of up to $5 million.
Sentencing in Ecological Reserve Case
Mairo Correa García, 19, an undocumented alien from Michoacán, Mexico, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for conspiring to cultivate 454 marijuana plants in the Fay Canyon area of the Canebrake Ecological Reserve.
Correa was also ordered to pay $2,568 in restitution to the High Sierra Trail Volunteer Crew for the cost of cleaning up the grow site.
The Canebrake Ecological Reserve is a California nature reserve in South Fork Valley in northeastern Kern County and is administered by the California Department of Fish and Game. The area is home to many rare and protected plants and animals, including the federally protected golden and bald eagles and peregrine falcon, the threatened California red-legged frog, Valley elderberry longhorn beetle, and the endangered Southwestern willow flycatcher.