‘Trimmigrants’ in high-profile grow take misdemeanor plea agreements
A high-profile bust last fall of seven people working at a “huge” pot processing operation — touted as sending a message to “trimmigrants” that they face arrest and prosecution on felony charges — has petered out, with the co-defendants in the felony case taking misdemeanor plea agreements.
Members of the Nevada County Sheriff’s Narcotics Task Force reportedly located the “huge trimming facility” with 17 active trimming stations at the residence in the 12000 block of Kentucky Flat Road in November 2014. Detectives seized 536 pounds of processed cola, 83 pounds of cola on the stem and 505 pounds of shake to be used in manufacturing honey oil, said Sheriff’s Lt. Bill Smethers. Deputies reportedly also located nearly $17,000 in cash, 33.58 grams of heroin and a mason jar full of opium poppies.
Matthew Wilkes, 23, was the sole renter of the property, Smethers said. According to Smethers, the trimmers told detectives they were being paid $125 to $150 a pound for processing the marijuana.
Jeanne Lenora Culver, 37; Ian Charles Dominguez, 26; Claire Elizabeth Ray, 27; Michael Richard Marcel Seban, 23; Alexandra Ashley Trupp, 32; Sandra Canessa, 26; and Wilkes each were charged with felonies.
Charging for processing marijuana is a “new angle” because of the influx of trimmers, Smethers said at the time, adding that particular section of the penal code typically is used to charge defendants for cultivating marijuana.
“They come to our neck of the woods solely to make money, and then they move on,” Smethers told The Union. “If that’s your purpose, you will be arrested and charged.”
On April 9, however, Canessa, Culver, Dominguez and Ray pleaded no contest to misdemeanor possession of marijuana, in return for three years probation. Sebane and Trupp also will take that plea agreement, on May 7.
On April 23, Wilkes pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of maintaining a place for selling or using controlled substances, in return for 15 days in jail, 150 hours community service and three years probation, according to court records.
“We talked to the DA’s office before we made the arrests,” Smethers said of the decision to ask for felony charges. “We wanted to send a clear message, and they agreed, they said they were behind us.”
Smethers said he didn’t know the circumstances that led to the decision to accept the misdemeanor plea agreements, but said his office was “disappointed.”
“It was a lot of work that went into it, with follow-up investigation,” he said. “We obviously wanted those charges.”
Nevada County District Attorney Cliff Newell said the decision to authorize the plea agreements was due to the fact that this case was a first for the county.
“We had never charged people involved in processing with a crime before — so coming out of the gate and charging them with felonies seemed to be unfair to me as far as resolving the case,” he said.
“The bottom line is, there is a due process issue. We had never used that charge before; people need to know we will use that before I start throwing the hammer down. That being said, (trimmers) are on notice now … that we will charge these cases, if they are involved in the illicit drug trade,” Newell added.
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.
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