Humberto Ceballos-Rangel (Ceballos), 37, of Mexico, pleaded guilty Tuesday in connection with his involvement in a large marijuana cultivation operation found by law enforcement last summer in the Sierra National Forest in Madera County.
Ceballos pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to manufacture, to distribute, and to possess with the intent to distribute 50 or more marijuana plants. According to court documents, Ceballos and his co-conspirators caused significant damage to public land and natural resources.
Ceballos was found at a campsite within a marijuana cultivation site with 5,904 marijuana plants. A firearm and ammunition were recovered from a vehicle associated with the cultivation operation, caused significant harm to the environmental landscape. Native vegetation was cut to accommodate the marijuana plants, foot trails, and cooking and sleeping areas. Water was also diverted from a nearby creek to irrigate the marijuana plants.
Agents found and removed from the site insecticide, propane tanks, and a large quantity of trash and hose line. Ceballos has agreed to make restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for the costs of cleaning up the site.
Charges against Ceballos’ three co-defendants, two citizens of Mexico, and one from Woodlake, remain pending.
Ceballos is scheduled for sentencing before U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill on April 18, 2016. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
This case is the product of an investigation by several agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Madera County Narcotic Enforcement Team (MADNET).