ST. GEORGE — A man convicted in January for his role in a huge marijuana farm near Cedar City was sentenced to 10 years in prison Tuesday.
Roman Juarez-Sanchez, of Compton, Calif., received a sentence for 10 years in federal prison following a 2012 raid of about 4,000 pot plants near Cedar City. Police arrested Juarez-Sanchez along with two other people, Marcelo Balderas and Elizabeth Gabriela Lopez.
Balderas, 28, was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison. Lopez, 25, received a 30-month prison sentence.
Juarez-Sanchez, prosecutors say, was an organizer or manager of the well-organized farm.
We had clear evidence that he was involved in arranging transportation, purchasing supplies and delivering those supplies and workers to the grow site and hauling out the harvested marijuana.
–Matthew Bell, Assistant U.S. Attorney
"We had clear evidence that he was involved in arranging transportation, purchasing supplies and delivering those supplies and workers to the grow site and hauling out the harvested marijuana," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Bell.
He brought food to workers and arranged transportation as they worked on thousands of pot plants, Bell said.
These farms are a huge public safety concern, according to Bell.
"Not only are these crops worth millions of dollars, but they are often protected by suspects who have firearms, they are in remote locations," Bell said. "Many of the people we arrest have criminal histories, and are suspects in homicide investigations."
More than 50 people in the last five or six years have been federally convicted for these crimes, Bell said. He says that aggressive action is leading to fewer pot farms in Utah.
"2012 was actually a trend downward," Bell said. "We saw far fewer grow sites that we were able to locate. We made three arrests and obtained convictions in all three cases. Our hope is the strategy is working."