Alpine marijuana farmer convicted in federal court
GARDNERVILLE, Nev. – A man who was arrested Aug. 11 watering plants in a major marijuana grow in Alpine County faces at least 10 years in prison after he was convicted by a federal jury on Wednesday.
Patricio Garcia Reyes, also known as Agustin Vasquez Garcia, 47, of the Bay Area, was convicted of conspiracy to grow marijuana and of carrying a firearm in a drug trafficking offense.
More than 5,000 plants were found growing in a remote area of the national forest in Alpine County during aircraft fly-overs while fighting the Wolf Creek fire near the Carson Iceberg Wilderness.
A few days later, a team of U.S. Forest Service officers and Alpine County Sheriff’s deputies went into the site to investigate the grow operation and located the defendant.
At the time of his arrest, Garcia Reyes was armed with a 9 mm Beretta semi-automatic handgun and over 50 rounds of ammunition. An illegal campsite at the grow location showed that three or four persons had likely been working at the grow site. It was estimated that each plant would have produced about 1 pound of marijuana when mature, with a street value of approximately $5 million. However, the plants were about a month away from maturity when located and eradicated.
The jury returned the verdict after a two-day trial before U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller.
U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner said the case is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service and the Alpine County Sheriff’s Department. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard J. Bender.
U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officers with experience cleaning up marijuana grows estimated the eventual cost to clean up the trash and materials left behind, including removal of an earthen stream dam, campsite, thousands of feet of irrigation hose, trash and debris, to be about $40,000. Because of the remote location of the site and rugged terrain, helicopters were used to bring out much of the material.
Garcia Reyes is scheduled to be sentenced on May 19. He faces a statutory mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison on the marijuana conspiracy charge, and a mandatory consecutive five years in prison on the gun charge.
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