KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Mexican national pleaded guilty in federal court today to his role in a conspiracy to grow thousands of marijuana plants in two large plots near Gower, Mo.

Serafin Rodriguez Gonzalez, 24, of Kansas City, Kan., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner to the charge contained in an Aug. 10, 2010, federal indictment.

On July 26, 2010, with the assistance of 14 law enforcement agencies and more than 80 officers, law enforcement agents executed federal search warrants for two suspected marijuana growing sites in Buchanan County, Mo., and Clinton County, Mo. There were approximately 4,000 growing marijuana plants at the Buchanan County location and approximately 3,000 growing marijuana plants at the Clinton County location. At each location, officers also found a campsite with two tents and a tarp-covered living area.

Gonzalez was arrested by law enforcement officers on the same day at a Kansas City, Kan., residence. When agents knocked on the door of the residence, an unknown Hispanic male ran out the back door and scaled a fence. Some of the agents attempted to follow him, while others searched the residence and found Gonzalez in an upstairs bedroom. Agents saw marijuana and other items associated with the manufacture of marijuana in plain view inside the residence.

After obtaining a Kansas state search warrant, agents found a number of related items in the residence, including approximately 10 pounds of marijuana seeds, approximately 40 pounds of marijuana in three large black trash bags, approximately five pounds of marijuana in multiple heat-sealed plastic bags, a loaded assault rifle, a 9 mm handgun, ammunition and approximately $3,000 in cash.

Under federal statutes, Gonzalez is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison without parole, up to a sentence of 40 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $2 million. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Rhoades. It was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Johnson County, Kan., Sheriff’s Department, the Buchanan County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the Clinton County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the St. Joseph, Mo., Police Department, the Independence, Mo., Police Department, and other agencies in a support role.

Information from the Office of Beth Phillips