A marijuana cultivation case involving six defendants resolved Tuesday morning after four of the charged suspects took plea agreements and the prosecutor dropped charges against the remaining two co-defendants.
The case stemmed from a raid by the Department of Justice-led Mountain and Valley Marijuana Investigation Team in May 2012, when agents served a warrant on a grow inside several greenhouses on the 19000 block of Valley Vista Way just north of Lake Wildwood, allegedly recovering more than 500 marijuana plants and 50 pounds of processed marijuana.
According to Special Agent Michelle Gregory, a spokeswoman with the California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, the suspects were growing marijuana inside large greenhouses every 60 days and selling to dispensaries in the Los Angeles area and Arizona.
As part of the raid, agents served four search warrants at locations on Melody and Brindle Pony roads, as well as at a storefront in the 10000 block of Commercial Lane.
Investigators allegedly uncovered two loaded firearms (one semi-automatic handgun and one revolver), more than 870 rounds of ammunition, and small amounts of cocaine and methamphetamine.
Agents arrested Joseph William Axtell, 55, and Eric Stephen Moffatt, 48, who were identified as the alleged ringleaders; Lesley Marie Nemeth, 51, of Penn Valley; Ginny Marie Janow, 41, of Smartsville; and Jeffrey Jacob Santos, 32, of Penn Valley. Santos was not charged in the case, but Robert Ross Axtell, 60, and Emily Elizabeth Axtell, 56, were added to the complaint at a later date.
Joseph Axtell was charged with possession of marijuana for sale, cultivation of marijuana, criminal conspiracy, being a felon in possession of a firearm, being a felon in possession of ammunition, and possession of cocaine. He allegedly had prior conviction, for kidnapping, in 1979.
Lesley Nemeth was charged with possession of marijuana for sale, cultivation of marijuana, criminal conspiracy, and possession of cocaine.
Robert Axtell and Emily Axtell each were charged with possession of marijuana for sale, cultivation of marijuana, and criminal conspiracy.
Janow was charged with cultivating marijuana, criminal conspiracy and possession of methamphetamine.
Moffatt was charged with possessing marijuana for sale, cultivating marijuana, criminal conspiracy, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and possession of methamphetamine.
A preliminary hearing into the evidence against all six was scheduled to start Tuesday in Nevada County Superior Court.
Joseph Axtell pleaded no contest to criminal conspiracy to maintain a place for the cultivation of marijuana for sale, in return for no more than nine months in county jail and a term of probation; he would also have to abide by growing restrictions. He also agreed to forfeit nearly half of $30,000 seized from his residence. His sentencing was set for Sept. 27.
Moffatt took a similar plea, in return for a sentence of no more than nine months and similar restrictions; he is set to be sentenced Aug. 26.
Robert Axtell also pleaded no contest to criminal conspiracy. He was sentenced to three years’ probation, with no jail time due to his wife’s medical condition. He agreed to forfeit half of the nearly $60,000 seized from his residence.
Nemeth pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor county of criminal conspiracy and was sentenced to three years court probation.
“She benefited from this venture, but she had a fairly minor role,” said Deputy District Attorney Jim Phillips.
Phillips dismissed all charges against Emily Axtell and Janow.
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4229.