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Californian may get life sentence for growing pot on public land in Utah

Courts » Sentencing is April 1 in St. George.

By Brooke Adams

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Jan 29 2013 05:19 pm • Last Updated May 05 2013 11:33 pm

A California man faces up to life in prison after being found guilty of operating a marijuana farm on U.S. Forest Service land in Iron County.

Roman Juarez-Sanchez, 46, will be sentenced on April 1 in St. George and will serve at least 10 years under mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines.

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Frank Smith, assistant special agent in charge of the DEA in Salt Lake City, called the conviction a "victory" in the fight to stop illegal manufacturing of marijuana.

"DEA will continue to stand steadfast with our federal, state and local partners to keep dangerous drug trafficking organizations from setting up grow operations on public lands in Utah," Smith said in a statement.

Authorities began monitoring the site last July after receiving a tip about the marijuana crop. Based on that information, they arrested Juarez-Sanchez, of Compton, Calif., along with two other California residents during a traffic stop.

Officers found more than 80 pounds of harvested marijuana in the trunk of the vehicle. Officers later raided the grow site and found 4,211 plants.

Evidence presented during a three-day trial showed that Juarez-Sanchez organized the transportation of workers and supplies to the grow area. He also transported large quantities of marijuana after crops were harvested.

Prosecutors called Juarez-Sanchez a key figure in the operation even though he never planted, tended or cut the plants himself.

"This case illustrates that a person need not be physically present in the grow area to be considered a key player in a marijuana-grow operation," said David Barlow, U.S. Attorney for Utah, in a statement.

The two other individuals indicted in the case pleaded guilty to one count of manufacture of a controlled substance by cultivation. They will be sentenced on March 4 in St. George.

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