Man pleads guilty for pot grow in California national forest

FRESNO, Calif. - A man was in court Tuesday for a large-scale pot grow in Inyo National Forest.

Javier Rios Morales, 25, of Jalisco, Mexico, pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute 3,405 marijuana plants and 350 pounds of processed marijuana seized from a grow site in Inyo National Forest.

According to court documents, U.S. Forest Service agents found a marijuana cultivation operation in the Hogback Creek area of the Inyo National Forest.

The Forest Service set up trail cameras and photographed Rios leaving supplies at a drop point to the site. Rios also picked up processed marijuana from the site.

One of the load vehicles was tracked to several stash houses in Riverside County. Ultimately, agents executed four search warrants at the grow site and three residences in Riverside County.

Agents seized 3,405 marijuana plants, 350 pounds of processed marijuana, digital scales, highly toxic and illegal rodenticides, and 2,200 pounds of trash from the Hogback Creek grow site.

In pleading guilty, Rios agreed to pay $6,572.14 to the U.S. Forest Service for removal and dumping fees associated with eradication of the site.

Agents in Riverside County seized two pounds of methamphetamine, a methamphetamine laboratory, five firearms, $10,000 in cash, and two pounds of marijuana from a residence in Moreno Valley. Agents seized another 450 marijuana plants and marijuana cultivation at a stash house in Homeland. At another stash house in Romoland, they seized a firearm, marijuana shake and residue, and shipping labels consistent with the shipment of marijuana to Chicago.

Rios is scheduled for sentencing on April 14. He faces a sentence of five years to 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine. He is also subject to deportation to Mexico, upon completion of any prison term. 

This case was the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, and Riverside County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.

Print this article Back to Top