FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A Madera County man was sentenced Friday for conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana and possessing firearms in furtherance of the conspiracy, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

Talbert says Carson Shane Wilhite, 43, of Ahwahnee, was sentenced to seven years and six months in prison and was also ordered to pay $46,680 in restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for the damage caused by the cultivation operation.

According to officials on Sept. 30, 2022, Wilhite pleaded guilty to the charges. According to court documents, Wilhite was involved in a marijuana cultivation operation on public land in the Sierra National Forest adjacent to his residence and at his residence on private land. 

During the execution of a federal search warrant in the summer of 2019, law enforcement officers say they located marijuana growing outside of Wilhite’s bedroom and an indoor cultivation room containing live marijuana plants under the residence below Wilhite’s bedroom. 

The officers also say they located an additional 2,261 marijuana plants growing on public land adjacent to Wilhite’s residence. In exchange for $3,000 in cash and an additional $300 per month, Wilhite allowed other individuals to pass through his property to the public land so that they could grow marijuana there. Upon harvest, he was going to be paid in marijuana and would receive an additional $10,000. In total, officers located 2,353 marijuana plants.

According to Talbert while serving the warrant in Wilhite’s residence, officers found three firearms, including an AR-15 type assault rifle with no serial number, commonly known as a ghost gun, and a Springfield .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol with a live round chambered. Wilhite advised the officers that he had been carrying the loaded semi-automatic pistol prior to the arrival of law enforcement officers and was armed when he checked on the marijuana in the forest. In a second residence on the property, officers located a safe, which Wilhite controlled, that contained an additional 11 firearms. Marijuana was also growing in pots within the second residence and more marijuana plants were growing in a creek below that residence.

Wilhite has been in custody since July 2021, after violating his pretrial conditions of release by testing positive for methamphetamine on three occasions.