By Chelsea Phua
A federal grand jury in Sacramento indicted 10 people in four separate cases of marijuana growth operations on public land, according to a Thursday news release by United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner's office.
Authorities said the defendants operated large marijuana grows in three different counties. In all, agents found more than 36,000 plants being cultivated by the defendants.
More than 3,000 marijuana plants, each about 5 feet tall, were found on Bureau of Land Management lands south of Cache Creek in Yolo County in early August. Agents raided the marijuana gardens, many of which were connected by a common irrigation system, and arrested four Mexican nationals. They are Leodegario Gomez Juarez, 26; Jose Ivan Solorio, 24; Rodolfo Ochoa Aburto, 30; and Albaro Ochoa Aburto, 28.
Agents said they found Solorio, Rodolfo Ochoa Aburto, and Juarez with four loaded firearms inside a tent near the trail. Agents had to cut open the tent. Albaro Ochoa Aburto was in a different part of the garden. He tried to flee but was caught, authorities said.
More than 21,000 plants were eradicated and 1,000 pounds of processed marijuana were seized when authorities arrested Maximiano Gonzalez Almanzar, 58, for allegedly cultivating the plants in the Lassen National Forest.
In Plumas National Forest, law enforcement officers eradicated more than 5,000 plants and arrested Francisco Arellano-Rodriguez, 27, of San Jose. The indictment alleges that Arellano-Rodriguez cultivated at least 1,000 plants.
Agents seized a grow operation in the Rumsey Canyon area of Yolo County in July. The four people agents say are responsible were caught fleeing a central campsite surrounded by about 7,600 plants. Agents also found 29 pound of processed marijuana and about 60 pounds hanging from ropes to drive.
Authorities arrested Leonel Favela, 24; Justino Santos; 18, Benito Santos: 25, and Julian Gutierrez, 24; all Mexican nationals.
If convicted of the charges, all the defendants face a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison.
Call The Bee's Chelsea Phua, (916) 321-1132.