Mexican marijuana growers deported
Three Mexican men arrested during a raid on a large outdoor marijuana farm near the Yuba River in July were deported this week after a Nevada County judge sentenced them to three years of probation.
Blas Jimenez-Nava, 51; Armando Alonso Ramos, 37; and Gutberto Santana-Garcia, 25, were picked up Tuesday by officials with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office and deported to Mexico, according to officers at Wayne Brown Correctional Facility in Nevada City, where the men had been jailed since their July 13 arrests.
All three men were poor farmers forced to tend the illegal farm by people with high positions in the drug trade who threatened to kill them and their families if they did not cooperate, Jimenez-Nava told his defense lawyer, Greg Klein of Nevada City.
"Who knows if that's really the case," Klein said Wednesday. "That's what he said - that they were so far down the food chain. But that could be a story these guys told."
He said the men could have been poor farmers, called "campesinos" in Mexico, who were offered a cut of the profits in exchange for their compliance.
Mexican citizens arrested during pot raids may encounter violence after deportation at the hands of cartel or mafia members who force them into the work, Nevada County narcotics investigator Jason Spillner said.
Agents from regions across the state meet for de-briefings where they gather information on drug trade trends. At these conferences, Spillner said, investigators have mentioned convicts who allegedly were killed upon their deportation to Mexico.
"We don't know first-hand what takes place because we're not standing there," Spillner said. "A lot of it is the rumor mill, and while we don't know it for a fact, but we hear that, sometimes, this takes place."
No one at the Mexican General Consulate in Sacramento was available Wednesday to comment on the deportation of the men or whether they or their families were in any danger.
Nevada County narcotics agents and federal investigators confiscated 19,138 plants and two handguns from the plantation near Independence Trail, off Highway 49 north of Nevada City, where the men were arrested.
With an interpreter present in court, the men pleaded no contest Sept. 20 to one charge each of cultivating marijuana.
Nevada County Judge Julie McManus sentenced the men to 100 days in jail and three years of probation.
The judge, prosecutor and all three defense lawyers agreed the sentence was the best option, Klein said.
At the time of sentencing, each man had credit for time served and good time credits, according to court records.
McManus ordered the men to provide a residential address to the court by mail within two weeks of their arrival in Mexico.
The likelihood of that happening is slim, Klein said.
"I don't know why they would," Klein said. "They don't have to if they're in Mexico."
(photos: L to R Blas Jimenez-Nava, Armando Alonso Ramos, Gutberto Santana-Garcia)
FOR ARTICLES AND PHOTOS OF THESE DRUG GROWS ALL OVER THE UNITED STATES.