Three plead guilty for marijuana operation in Native American site

Three men pled guilty Monday in Fresno federal court for conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess marijuana on a Native American site in Tulare County, the office of U.S Attorney Phillip A. Talbert said.

According to court documents, Juan Carlos Lopez, 32 of Lake Elsinore; and Rafael Torres-Armenta, 30; and Javier Garcia-Castaneda, 38, both of Michoacán, Mexico, worked with co-defendant Carlos Piedra-Murillo, 30, also of Mexico to produce marijuana at a Tübatulaba Native American archaeological site in Domeland Wilderness area. Piedra-Murillo plead guilty to the conspiracy charges last month.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said officers pulled out 8,000 marijuana plants from two sites plus seized 17 pounds of processed marijuana, a .22-caliber rifle, a pellet rifle and rounds of .22-caliber ammunition.

Lopez, Torres-Armenta, and Garcia-Castaneda are schedule for sentencing on June 26, and Piedra-Murillo is scheduled for sentencing on June 5. Torres-Armenta, Garcia-Castaneda and Piedra-Murillo are each subject to deportation to Mexico after their sentence is complete.

Chueyee Yang: 559-441-6447, @chueyee15