Beginning in late May of 2018, U.S. Forest Service law enforcement personnel began an investigation into a large marijuana grow site that was discovered deep in the Kiavah Wilderness Area south of Onyx.
On July 6, at approximately 9:00 p.m., officers observed workers from the grow site being picked up by a vehicle east of Onyx and stopped the vehicle in the area of 178 and Powers Lane.
The driver, Maurcio Vaca-Bucio, 31, of Bakersfield, and two passengers, Rodolfo Torres-Galvan, 29, of Bakersfield, and Felipe Valdez-Colima, 35, of Michoacan, Mexico, were arrested on federal charges of conspiracy to cultivate more than 1,000 marijuana plants and damage to public lands. Freshly harvested marijuana from the site was found in the vehicle.
On July 9, officers from the U.S. Forest Service, Kern County Sheriff’s Department and CAMP eradicated over 2,000 marijuana plants from the site. The grow site seriously damaged a riparian area in a remote canyon that provided a valuable water source for wildlife. Pesticides that are currently banned in the U.S. were found in the site.
All three defendants were determined to be undocumented foreign nationals. Torres and Valdez are previously deported criminal aliens with prior felony convictions in the U.S. and may face additional charges of criminal re-entry into the U.S.