Fresno County Marijuana Cultivator Convicted
|U.S. Attorney’s Office December 14, 2009|
FRESNO, CA—United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced today that on Friday, December 11, 2009, a Fresno jury convicted HERIBERTO SICAIROS-QUINTERO, 54, of Gustine, on two counts of manufacturing and aiding and abetting the manufacture of marijuana and carrying a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
This case is the product of Operation Save our Sierras (SOS), a multi-agency marijuana eradication effort in Fresno County in the summer of 2009, which resulted the eradication of over 423,000 marijuana plants on public land in less than two weeks. Operation SOS is sponsored by the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy and led by the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office with the participation of numerous federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE), National Park Service (NPS), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), California National Guard, California Department of Justice Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement (BNE), and California Department of Fish and Game. The lead agency involved in the investigation of the case against SICAIROS-QUINTERO was the U.S. Forest Service, with assistance from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, ICE, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).
According to Assistant United States Attorneys Ian L. Garriques, Kevin P. Rooney, and Karen A. Escobar, who are prosecuting the case, SICAIROS-QUINTERO was apprehended by federal and state officers during Operation SOS on July 13, 2009, in the Shaver Lake/Jose Basin area of the Sierra National Forest in Fresno County. At trial, officers testified that while they were leading a volunteer team toward a prior marijuana site for reclamation and cleanup, they unexpectedly saw a live marijuana cultivation site across another canyon. Officers went to investigate and apprehended SICAIROS-QUINTERO on a trail just above a cultivation site with over 7,000 marijuana plants. SICAIROS-QUINTERO had a loaded handgun in his waistband and said he had been paid to cook at the grow for 30 days. Officers also found numerous firearms, cultivating materials, fertilizers, irrigation hoses, and trash at the site that had to be airlifted out of the area.
United States Attorney Wagner stated, “Over the past several years, largescale marijuana production on public lands in California has escalated at a rapid pace. The rampant cultivation of marijuana on remote public lands not only poses significant problems for the law enforcement community but threatens the public. Many growers have firearms and other dangerous weapons. They also damage ecosystems with excessive amounts of fertilizers, pesticides, and rodenticides, by diverting natural water sources, and by dumping trash and waste.”
SICAIROS-QUINTERO faces a minimum prison sentence of 10 years, a maximum term of life, and a fine of $4,000,000 for the marijuana manufacturing charge. For the charge of carrying a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, SICAIROS-QUINTERO faces a minimum prison sentence of five years, a maximum term of life, and a fine of $250,000. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables and any applicable statutory sentencing factors.
United States District Judge Oliver W. Wanger is scheduled to sentence SICAIROSQUINTERO on February 22, 2010, at 1:30 p.m.