FRESNO, Calif. — Noe Alvarez Ramirez, 28, of Michoacán, Mexico, was sentenced today to two years and nine months in prison, and Rudy Alberto Gonzalez Rocha, 28, and his brother, Eloy Damian Gonzalez Rocha, 32, both of Jalisco, Mexico, entered guilty pleas to being aliens in possession of firearms seized from a marijuana cultivation site, according to U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner.
7,302 Marijuana Plants Seized from Sequoia National Forest (No. 1:13-cr-172 AWI)
Alvarez was sentenced following his guilty plea in March to conspiring to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute marijuana grown in the Gibboney Canyon area of the Sequoia National Forest in Kern County. The area is also within the federally designated Domeland Wilderness area. According to court documents, U.S. Forest Service agents seized 7,302 marijuana plants from the site and found 5,000 marijuana plant stalks consistent with a prior harvest in 2012. During the execution of a federal search warrant at the site, agents found Alvarez sleeping in a tent. Alvarez was also ordered to pay $2,675 in restitution to the U.S. Forest Service caused by the negative environmental impact of the cultivation. Trash and fertilizer bags were scattered about the area and the ground was terraced after native vegetation, including oak trees, was cut down to make room for the marijuana plants. Trash also was found in the waterway of Gibboney Creek. Alvarez is subject to potential deportation to Mexico after he serves any prison sentence.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.
Firearms Seized from Fresno County Grow (1:14-cr-39 AWI)
The Gonzalez brothers entered guilty pleas to being illegal aliens in possession of three firearms, one of which was reported stolen from Arkansas and another having an obliterated serial number. The guns were found during the execution of a narcotics search warrant at the men’s leased residence in Dunlap, Calif. According to court documents, at the beginning of this year, Fresno County Sheriff deputies had been dispatched to the property to investigate several calls about people coming and going to and from the property, which had a strong odor of marijuana. Deputies seized 260 marijuana plants, more than 200 pounds of processed marijuana, and $17,120 in cash, along with the firearms. The defendants have agreed to the forfeiture of the money and guns.
This case was the product of an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
The Gonzalez brothers are scheduled for sentencing on August 4, 2014. They face a maximum prison term of 10 years and a $250,000 fine. Their actual sentences, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.