Man Arrested in Canyon Marijuana Sting

Man Arrested in Canyon Marijuana Sting

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The U.S. Attorney's office has filed a complaint against a man accused of being one of several men growing a large field of marijuana in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Jose Hernandez-Ibarra, 46, has a detention hearing scheduled for Wednesday in front of U.S. District Judge Brooke Wells for allegedly growing marijuana.

Hernandez-Ibarra has not yet been indicted, but U.S. Attorney's spokeswoman Melodie Rydalch said her office expects that to happen July 30.

On July 4, a hiker in Big Cottonwood Canyon reported seeing irrigation pipe and hearing someone rustling in bushes nearby.

Forest Service and Salt Lake County sheriff's officers scouted the area Friday and said they found approximately 8,700 potted marijuana plants, a campsite, and four men. The plants were growing in a stretch of land slightly larger than a football field, authorities said. The men ran down the canyon after seeing the officers, according to the federal complaint.

No other arrests have been made, but authorities were searching for the others involved.

On Saturday, a Forest Service officer saw Hernandez-Ibarra quickly walking down the Big Cottonwood Road about four miles west of the site with marijuana plants. Hernandez-Ibarra wore dirty brown jeans, had scratches on his face, hands and chest and had several days of beard growth on his face, according to the complaint.

Hernandez-Ibarra's "overall appearance was consistent with that of someone who had been camping in a remote location for several days and who had been working in and around and traveling through thick brush and across rugged terrain," the complaint said.

Hernandez-Ibarra had no identification, and told a sheriff's deputy that he was staying with friends in a neighborhood near the mouth of the canyon. When the sheriff's deputy took him to the neighborhood, Hernandez-Ibarra could not identify where he was staying or give the correct spelling of his friends' names.

A Forest Service officer identified Hernandez-Ibarra as one who had been filmed at the site with the marijuana plants, and Hernandez-Ibarra was arrested.

Hernandez-Ibarra is of Mexican nationality, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service is checking his immigration status, Rydalch said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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