Two sentenced for cultivating marijuana

The owner of a Ramona house where marijuana was cultivated was sentenced last week to 63 months in federal prison. A caretaker at the house was sentenced to two years in prison.

Thomas Vernon Swift, 48, was allowed to remain free on a $600,000 property bond until he surrenders by Jan. 30 to a federal prison to start his sentence. It is not uncommon for a defendant to be allowed to celebrate Christmas before starting a prison term.

Swift has forfeited the Ramona house at 16201 Swartz Canyon Road and another house to the federal government. He and seven others pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy to manufacture marijuana plants at various locations including Ramona, Fallbrook, Vista, and Valley Center.

The 2-year prison term went to Jorge Morales, 23, whom his attorney described as a caretaker for only two months of the marijuana cultivation at the Ramona house.

“He (Morales) was pretty much on the bottom rung” of the marijuana conspiracy, said his attorney, Michael Berg. “He was basically a caretaker (who) watered and took care of the plants.”

U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey Miller said Morales only was involved with marijuana cultivation at the Ramona site. Morales received the least amount of time among the seven others who were sentenced Monday.

“I’m sorry for what I did,” said Morales, who was clad in a green prison uniform.

Miller said Morales will be returned to Mexico once he finishes his sentence, and warned him not to enter the U.S. illegally.

Berg said Morales wants to return to Tijuana after his term and help his father with a business there. Morales had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture marijuana. He has been held in the Metropolitan Correctional Center since his arrest in April, and will be given credit for those months against the two-year term.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stewart Young had sought a 30-month term for Morales.

Swift has settled a dispute about stolen electricity with San Diego Gas & Electric by paying $55,000 to the utility company, and he is expected to pay $55,000 more, according to court records. Swift’s attorney, Eugene Iredale, had asked the judge to sentence him to an even five-year term.

Kevin Deon Kennedy, 49, of Vista, received 70 months in prison.  Kennedy was described by the prosecutor as running the marijuana operation with Swift. Young had sought an 84-month term, saying Kennedy had a prior criminal history. Kennedy also pleaded guilty to conspiracy.

Swift, Kennedy, and four others agreed to forfeit $30,767 in cash that was seized, as well as a Chevrolet Corvette, a Chevrolet truck, a boat, and boat trailer to the government.

   
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