Alejandro Ramirez-Rojo, 31, of Mexico, was sentenced by United States District Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill to 27 months in prison and ordered to pay $8,752 in restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for conspiring to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute marijuana in the Sierra National Forest, Acting United States Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
According to court documents, co-defendant Humberto Ceballos-Rangel, 37, of Mexico, was found at a campsite within the marijuana cultivation site, where agents found 5,904 marijuana plants and a loaded firearm.
Ramirez-Rojo, Francisco Javier Gomez-Rodriguez, 38, of Pihuamo, Jalisco, Mexico, and Anthony Isaac Santibanez, 20, of Woodlake, were found a short time later approaching the grow site in a vehicle that agents had previously identified as a vehicle used to deliver supplies to the grow site. A .22-caliber rifle was found in the vehicle, along with .40-caliber rounds of ammunition.
Ceballos-Rangel was sentenced on February 18, 2016, to three years in prison; Gomez-Rodriguez was sentenced on July 2, 2016 to three years and five months in prison; and Santibanez is scheduled to be sentenced on October 3, 2016.
The cultivation operation encompassed at least five acres of national forest land. Throughout the grow site, natural vegetation had been cut to accommodate the marijuana plants, related trails, and cooking and sleeping areas.
A water reservoir had been dug into the soil to store water for use in the marijuana cultivation operation. The water in the reservoir had been diverted from a nearby creek. The soil had significant disturbance throughout the impacted area. There were also several trash pits that had mostly been covered in dirt. Two large net loads of trash, two five-gallon propane tanks, and 2,000 feet of irrigation hose were removed, along with the marijuana plants. Law enforcement agents also found insecticide at the site.
This case was the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), California Department of Justice’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Madera County Narcotic Enforcement Team (MADNET). Assistant United States Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.