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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

District of Idaho

For Immediate Release

January 21, 2011

Wendy J. Olson, United States Attorney

Contact: Pamela Bearg, Public Information Officer
(208) 334-1211

Mexican National Sentenced for Large Marijuana Grow on Public Lands

Leonardo Villasenor-Cesar, 23, was sentenced yesterday to fifteen years in federal prison in connection with a marijuana grow on public lands located in Valley County near the boundary with Boise County during the summer of 2010. United States District Judge Edward J. Lodge also ordered Villasenor-Cesar to forfeit drugs, manufacture materials and firearms. Villasenor-Cesar pled guilty last November to drug manufacturing and firearms possession charges. Villasenor-Cesar is a native of Michoacan, Mexico and had entered the United States illegally. He had been living in the Caldwell, Idaho area.

Between May and August 2010, Villasenor-Cesar and other co-conspirators planted, fertilized, watered, tended, and began harvesting approximately 1,687 marijuana plants on public lands administered by the United States Forest Service. Law enforcement officers were tipped off about the growing operation by a hunter. Federal and state law enforcement officers followed up and on August 31, 2010 carried out a joint arrest and eradication operation. They found two suspects in the marijuana growing operation and were able to arrest Villasenor-Cesar. The other suspect was able to evade capture in this remote, mountainous area. Villasenor-Cesar was armed with a loaded pistol at the time of his arrest, and another loaded pistol was found under his control. A stream had been dammed to provide water piped through plastic tubing to the cultivation plot. Two tents and primitive shelters were found, as well as cell phones, batteries, tools, plant growing materials. There was evidence that they had been supplied with groceries dropped off on a nearby road.

At sentencing, Judge Lodge commented on the lengthy prison sentence, saying that these harsh, fixed penalties reflect the nation’s concern about these types of operations; and the increasing concern that individuals who carry firearms in furtherance of growing marijuana on public lands create a danger for citizens who use public lands for lawful recreation. The case was the result of a joint investigation of the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), led by the United States Forest Service and Drug Enforcement Administration, in conjunction with the Valley County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Bureau of Land Management, Canyon County Narcotics Unit, Boise Police Department, Ada County Sheriff’s Office, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Idaho State Police, Idaho Fish and Game, and the Idaho National Guard. The U.S. Forest Service is aggressively working with partners at the federal, state and local levels to address the issue of illegal marijuana growing in national forests and is committed to ensuring the national forest system is a safe place for visitors.

United States Attorney Wendy J. Olson praised the cooperative work done by so many law enforcement officers from state and federal agencies. In remote areas, safe and successful handling of crime scenes, such as this one on Boom Creek, require the joint efforts of many agents, said Olson. The United States Attorney’s Office for Idaho prioritizes protection of public lands. It goes to the essence of national sovereignty that citizens be able to safely and lawfully enjoy our treasure of public lands in this state. Criminals who conduct operations such as this one endanger the public in three ways: first, by endangering our natural resources; second, by endangering citizens using public lands; and third, by growing marijuana which they then intend to richly profit from by selling illegal drugs to our citizens.