The last defendant in what was dubbed the largest marijuana trafficking operation was sentenced Monday in federal court.
Jose Sergio Espindola, 41, of Delhi, was sentenced to six months in prison and six months home detention for concealing a felony, the U.S. Attorney’s Office reported.
Espindola was the last of 11 defendants to be sentenced in a case that focused on his cousin, Uriel Ochoa-Espindola, who was sentenced earlier this year to 17 years in prison.
According to court documents, Ochoa-Espindola was the leader of one of the largest marijuana trafficking operations in Northern California. Based in the Merced County town of Delhi, Ochoa-Espindola and his partners grew tens of thousands of marijuana plants in El Dorado, Tehama, and Placer Counties and shipped it by truck to South Dakota, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington, North Carolina, and elsewhere.
Investigators seized more than 100 pounds of marijuana in Colorado, more than 300 pounds of marijuana in Illinois, and more than $100,000 in cash. The cash was being shipped from North Carolina to California for Ochoa-Espindola. Investigators seized an additional $315,000 in cash at the time of Ochoa-Espindola’s arrest. Investigators seized three handguns and nearly 11,000 marijuana plants at the El Dorado County site, nearly 17,500 marijuana plants at the Placer County site, and nearly 2,000 marijuana plants at a grow site in Tehama County. In all, investigators seized 24 firearms, including four AK-47 rifles and two M-16/M-4 style rifles, many with high-capacity magazines.
“This case represented all the worst aspects of marijuana trafficking in this district: multiple grow sites, environmental harm, high-capacity firearms, huge amounts of money, shipments to multiple states,” said U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner. “This case is concluded, but we will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute similar conduct in this district.”
Co-defendant Valentine Ramirez-Cardinez was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Other co-defendants received prison sentences ranging from three years to nearly eight years.
The case was the product of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, Placer County Sheriff’s Office, the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, and the Mountain and Valley Marijuana Investigation Team. Assistant United States Attorney Michael M. Beckwith prosecuted the case.