$1.3 Million In Marijuana Plants Seized

Raid nets two adults and one juvenile on conspiracy charge, plus 8,000 plants


A pair of illegal immigrants and a juvenile are being held in Gila County jails charged with conspiracy to manufacture marijuana.

Rigoberto Mendoza-Guesar, 50, and Filiberto Franco-Chavez, 30, are currently in the Payson jail, and the juvenile has been transferred to Globe.


Rigoberto Mendoza-Guesar

All three are being held without bond and also detained for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.

"That means when the state and feds are done with them, they will be deported (to their native Mexico)," Gila County Sheriff Sgt. Swede Carlson said.

The trio was arrested Oct. 3, following a raid on a marijuana field found in the South Fork Deer Creek Springs area. The garden, which contained 8,000-plus plants, with a street value of $1,360,000, was located in the pristine Mazatzal Wilderness, about four miles west of SR 87 and SR 188.


Filiberto Franco-Chavez

Law enforcement officers eradicated the plants.

A Gila County Narcotics Task Force agent, who asked not to be identified, said Franco-Chavez tried to flee during the raid but was captured after a short foot chase.

The teenager arrested at the site is believed to be the son of Mendoza-Guesar.

Agents found a shotgun and pistol apparently owned by the suspects, at the growing site.

"But, no gunfire was exchanged," the agent.

GCNTF agents said information obtained during an ongoing investigation led them to the site.

Conducting the raid were officers representing the U.S. Forest Service, Arizona Department of Public Safety, Phoenix Police Department, the Sheriff's Office and the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency.

The raid comes on the heels of two similar eradication efforts Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 near Cherry Creek in the Sierra Anchas mountain range. At the first garden, law enforcement officers located 1,759 mature marijuana plants, from 6 to 8 feet in height. At the second garden, agents found 5,266 plants.

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