Riverside woman pleads guilty in forest pot grow case
FRESNO — Coral Herrera pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute, and manufacturing marijuana in connection with two separate large-scale marijuana cultivation operations in Kern County in the Sequoia National Forest, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
Herrera, 21, of Perris, also agreed to pay restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for the damage to public land and natural resources caused by the marijuana cultivation activities.
According to court documents, Herrera was linked to grow sites in the Lucas Creek drainage and an area known as the Box 6 site after a four-month investigation. The investigation revealed that she was supplying material, equipment, and personnel to the grow sites, which consisted of 10,396 marijuana plants, and that she was also responsible for transporting co-defendants Abel Toledo-villa, 34, and Alfredo Cardenas-suastegui, 56, both natives and citizens of Mexico, away from the Box 6 grow site after it was raided. The marijuana cultivation operations caused extensive damage to the land and natural resources. Harmful pesticides and large amounts of trash were found at both sites. Native trees and vegetation were also removed to make room for the marijuana plants.
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Southern Tri-county High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) task force, California Department of Justice’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Kern County Sheriff’s Office, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Fontana Police Department, and Victorville Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting the case.
Herrera is scheduled for sentencing on Dec. 4, by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’neill. She faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $1 million. Toledo-villa previously entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to five years in prison. Charges against Cardenassuastegui and Maldonado-soto are still pending.