Nevada County man indicted on marijuana charges

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A Nevada County man charged with growing more than 600 marijuana plants was indicted on three violations regarding his alleged illegal operation. Charles Miller Hilkey, Jr., 55, of North San Juan was indicted by a Grand Jury on three violations including conspiracy to manufacture over 1,000 plants of marijuana, manufacturing over 1,000 plants of marijuana and conspiracy to launder money, according to an indictment filed Sept. 24 in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of California. Hilkey was also indicted on an allegation of forfeiture of property involved in drug trafficking. Rachelle Sari Garnitz and Bram Gabriel Lewis were named in the indictment as well. They are accused of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. Hilkey reportedly entered a not guilty plea and is set for a status conference next month before a Sacramento judge, according to Special Agent Arlette Lee, a public information officer with IRS criminal investigation division. Hilkey was arrested on federal drug charges earlier this month after authorities found 602 plants and 135 pounds of processed marijuana on 360 acres of land the North San Juan man allegedly owned. Nevada County officials suspect that Hilkey earned about $1.9 million in marijuana sales over the past two years. Hilkey could face a minimum of 10 years to life in prison, a $4 million fine and at least five years of supervised release if he is convicted of conspiracy to manufacture over 1,000 plants of marijuana, and manufacturing over 1,000 plants of marijuana. If he admits to the allegation, he would be forced to forfeit property related to the marijuana sales. If Hilkey, Garnitz and Lewis are found guilty of conspiracy to launder money, they could face up to 20 years in prison, a $500,000 fine or twice the value of the property involved and up to three years of supervised release. ~ Jenifer Gee