DAYTON, Ohio - A federal grand jury has indicted 11 Mexican nationals, charging each one with one count of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana in connection with the seizure of more than 2,500 marijuana plants being grown in rural areas of Muskingum and Logan counties. The indictment stems from an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Carter M. Stewart, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Robert Corso, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); Brian Moskowitz, Special Agent in Charge, ICE HSI for Ohio and Michigan; Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray; Logan County Sheriff Andrew Smith and Muskingum County Sheriff Matthew Lutz announced the indictment returned yesterday.
The indictment charges Hugo Ayala, 41, of Columbus, a Mexican national and a lawful permanent resident of the United States, and ten Mexican citizens:
- Leonel Mondragon-Garcia, 29,
- Jose Vilchiz-Garcia, 27,
- Ismael Bucio-Hernandez, 33,
- Daniel Zarco-Aguilar, 26,
- Jacinto Chavez-Castyalon, 29,
- Lorenzo Guzman-Garcia, 26,
- Manuel Castrejon-Sanchez, 36,
- Genaro Gallegos-Gamillo, 21,
- Saul Vargas-Garcia, 20,
- Lusiano Garcia-Sanchez, 25.
The Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI) initiated the investigation into the growing operation after a tip was received in June from two hunters who stumbled upon dozens of marijuana plants being cultivated on an outdoor parcel in a rural area of Logan County near Zanesfield. A second marijuana field was located near the town of Adams Mills, Ohio, next to the Muskingum River.
BCI partnered with local and federal authorities to monitor marijuana cultivation activity in that area. They believe Ayala drove the workers to the site to camp for a period of time so they could tend their marijuana crop.
All were arrested on Sept. 21, 2010 and have been in custody since their arrest.
Conspiracy to cultivate more than 1,000 marijuana plants is punishable by at least ten years and up to life in prison if the suspects are found guilty.
Stewart commended the cooperative investigation by the agencies involved. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sheila Lafferty is prosecuting the case. Judge Thomas M. Rose will preside over the case.