Noe Alvarez Ramirez (“Alvarez”), 28, and Carlos Adan Lupia-Lua, 26, both of Michoacán, Mexico, entered guilty pleas today for their involvement in separate marijuana cultivation operations in Kern and Tulare Counties, according to U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner.
7,302 Marijuana Plants Seized from Sequoia National Forest (No. 1:13CR172 AWI)
Alvarez pled guilty to conspiring to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute marijuana grown in the Gibboney Canyon area of the Sequoia National Forest in Kern County. The area is also within the federally designated Domeland Wilderness area. According to court documents, U.S. Forest Service agents seized 7,302 marijuana plants from the site and found 5,000 marijuana plant stalks consistent with a prior harvest in 2012. During the execution of a federal search warrant at the site, agents found Alvarez sleeping in a tent. In entering his guilty plea, Alvarez was agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $2,675.57 to the U.S. Forest Service caused by the negative environmental impact of the cultivation operation. Trash and fertilizer bags were scattered about the area and the ground was terraced after native vegetation, including oak trees, was cut down to make room for the marijuana plants. Trash was also found in the waterway of Gibboney Creek. Alvarez is also subject to deportation to Mexico after he serves any term of imprisonment imposed at sentencing.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Kern County Sheriff’s Office.
1,313 Marijuana Plants/Firearms Seized From Tulare County Ag Grow (1:12cr341 LJO)
Lupian-Lua pled guilty to cultivating marijuana on agricultural land in Terra Bella. According to court records, drug agents discovered the cultivation operation after following a supplier to the property. The supplier had previously delivered equipment and material for other marijuana cultivation operations on public lands in Ventura, San Luis Obispo, and Kern Counties. During the execution of a federal search warrant at the Terra Bella property, agents seized 1,313 marijuana plants, two firearms, and arrested six people, including Lupian-Lua. The marijuana had a wholesale value of $1.5 million.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Forest Service, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Tulare County and Ventura County Sheriff’s Offices.
Alvarez is scheduled for sentencing on May 12, 2014, and Lupian-Lua is scheduled for sentencing on May 27, 2014. Both Alvarez and Lupian-Lua Singharath face a mandatory minimum prison term of ten years, a maximum prison term of life and a $10 million fine. The actual sentence, 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.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the above cases.