Minnesota Man Sentenced for Marijuana Grow Operation in National Forest
|U.S. Attorney’s Office March 14, 2012|
MADISON, WI—John W. Vaudreuil, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Norberto Burciaga, 40, St. Paul, Minnesota, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb to 10 years in federal prison for his involvement in a conspiracy to manufacture marijuana in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest during 2011. Burciaga pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge in December 2011.
The evidence summarized by the government at the plea hearings established that in August 2011, Burciaga was arrested along with Jose Esqueda-Garcia, Moises Lopez-Ontiveros, Cesar Tinoco, Abraham Ramirez, and Jorge Lopez-Ontiveros after the marijuana grow they tended in the forest was raided by more than 200 law enforcement officers from over a dozen local, state, and federal agencies.
The grow location was initially discovered in November 2010 by hunters who reported the find to U.S. Forest Service officers. Police monitored the area in 2011 to determine if persons involved in the grow operation would return to use the area again. After months of monitoring and surveillance, law enforcement officers raided the campsite of the suspected growers and seized over 9,400 marijuana plants that had been planted, fertilized, and watered by the men.
Initially, four of the five men at the camp eluded capture until the following day, when Burciaga arrived from Minnesota to pick them up. Sawyer County deputies saw Burciaga’s truck, which investigators recognized based on the surveillance over the summer, and stopped it as it headed back toward Minnesota, apprehending Burciaga and the four suspects who had fled and stayed in the forest overnight.
The other five defendants were all sentenced in February, each to 10 years in prison.
The charges against the defendants were the result of an investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Justice-Division of Criminal Investigation; Ashland County Sheriff’s Department; Drug Enforcement Administration; U.S. Forest Service; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Northwest Area Crime Unit (comprised of Sawyer, Douglas, and Washburn County Sheriffs’ Departments and Superior Police Department); U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. The prosecution of the case has been handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert A. Anderson.