Three await trial in Green Bay in marijuana-growing case, Nine others pleaded guilty and await sentencing

All but three defendants have pleaded guilty in a federal case against 12 men accused of clear-cutting public forestland to grow marijuana. Two more defendants pleaded guilty late last week, which means only three defendants are awaiting scheduled jury trials in U.S. District Court in Green Bay. Raul Juvenal Avila-Rodriguez and Jesus DelaTorre-Avila entered pleas last week. They are scheduled for sentencing Oct. 19. DelaTorre-Avila had been scheduled for trial that was to begin Monday.

Also scheduled for sentencing Oct. 19 are Gustavo Barragon-Mendoza, Armando Adame-Alvarado and Jose Luis Sandoval-Mendoza. Javier Navarro-Zaragoza is scheduled for sentencing Sept. 7, Jorge Omar Perez-Hipolito for Sept. 12, Salvador Montez-Canchola for Sept. 20 and Uriel Perez-Alijandres for Sept. 26. Genaro Avila-Rodriguez and Adalbarto Valencia are scheduled for jury trial Sept. 12. Bernabe Nunez-Guzman, the only suspect from Green Bay and the man regarded by authorities as the organizer of the pot-growing operation, is scheduled for trial Nov. 7.

The criminal complaints do not spell out the roles of the other defendants in the operation. Only Nunez-Guzman and Valencia were legally in the United States, lawyers in the case have said. Authorities say the suspects lived in the forest while growing the marijuana, although nine of them were arrested at a home that Nunez-Guzman owned on the western edge of the Oneida Indian Reservation, just east of Seymour, where they dried and prepared the harvested marijuana plants, authorities say.

At all of the sites, the pot growers had hacked down mature trees about 3 feet from the ground. Marijuana that was planted amid the stumps has been harvested or hauled away by law enforcement agents. Authorities learned of the grow operations when a hiker came upon one of them in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Authorities put the site under surveillance and learned of the other sites as well as the house the suspects were using near Seymour and a storage garage near Bonduel. Investigators seized weapons, thousands of dollars and hundreds of pounds of dried or drying marijuana.

Confidential informants identified Nunez-Guzman, the former owner of a Green Bay flooring company, as the boss of the operation, according to the criminal complaint. Informants also identified defendant Raul Avila-Rodriguez as the supervisor for the marijuana-drying operations within the Seymour home, which was owned by Nunez-Guzman, the complaint says.

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