A federal grand jury has indicted 10 defendants for operating large marijuana grows on public land in three different counties, said U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner.
The four cases, which are unrelated, are the most recent indictments during the 2010 harvest season involving armed growers using public lands. The U.S. Attorney's office has charged approximately 80 persons this year with marijuana cultivation offenses.
In one of the cases, four armed men were charged with growing marijuana near Cache Creek in Yolo County.
Leodegario Gomez Juarez, 26, Jose Ivan Solorio, 24, Rodolfo Ochoa Aburto, 30, and Albaro Ochoa Aburto, 28, all Mexican nationals, were charged with cultivating and conspiring to cultivate marijuana on public land in Yolo County in July and August.
According to a complaint filed in the case, at dawn on Aug. 9 law enforcement agents raided a complex of marijuana gardens on Bureau of Land Management lands south of Cache Creek. In the garden they allegedly found more than 3,000 marijuana plants, each approximately 5 feet tall. A common system of non-BLM trails connected the gardens, and a common irrigation system connected many of the areas.
Agents found a tent near the trail and on a nearby tree a bandolier containing ammunition, according to the filed complaint. Agents cut open the tent and allegedly found Solorio, Rodolfo Aburto, and Juarez with four loaded firearms. Albaro Ochoa Aburto was in a different part of the garden and was apprehended when he attempted to flee. In a tent nearby, officers found a loaded shotgun.
- Maximiano Gonzalez Almanzar, 58, was charged with cultivating marijuana plants in the Lassen National Forest at a grow where more than 21,000 marijuana plants were eradicated, and 1,000 pounds of processed marijuana were seized.
- Francisco Arellano-Rodriguez, 27, of San Jose, was charged with cultivating marijuana in the Plumas National Forest in a plantation where law enforcement officers eradicated more than 5,000 marijuana plants at this location.
- Leonel Favela, 24, Justino Santos, 18, Benito Santos, 25, and Julian Gutierrez, 24, all Mexican nationals, were charged with marijuana cultivation on land administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in the Rumsey Canyon area of Yolo County.
According to court documents, agents identified the grow and conducted an operation to eradicate the marijuana plants. Agents seized the grow July 27, and arrested the four defendants, who allegedly were found fleeing a central campsite surrounded by approximately 7,674 marijuana plants. After securing the area, agents found 29 pounds of processed marijuana, and approximately 60 pounds of marijuana hanging from ropes to dry.
If convicted of the charges, all of the defendants face a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison.