MURRIETA (CNS) – A 22-year-old man who allegedly robbed a Winchester hemp farm, holding employees at gunpoint while chopping down cannabis plants, pleaded not guilty Thursday to armed robbery and other charges.
Hector Tinoco Ochoa, who is also charged with firearm assault and a sentence-enhancing allegation of using a gun in the commission of a felony, was arraigned before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Stephen Gallon, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for Jan. 27 at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta.
The defendant is free on a $105,000 bond.
Ochoa allegedly drove onto the legally registered hemp cultivation site at Craig Avenue and Winchester Road about 11:45 p.m. on Oct. 26 and began physically extracting cannabis plants — in some cases chopping them at the roots, then tossing them into a vehicle.
When farm workers confronted Ochoa, he allegedly leveled a gun at the victims, according to sheriff’s Sgt. Chad Thompson.
The defendant allegedly fled eastbound, and a description of the getaway vehicle was provided to deputies responding to the holdup, the sergeant said. The car was found a couple of hours later, parked in the 4800 block of Creekridge Lane in Hemet, where Ochoa and two passengers were taken into custody without incident.
Charges were dismissed in late November against his two former co-defendants, 39-year-old April Marlene Martin and 37-year-old Dana Francis Potter, though a judge had previously ordered the convicted felons to stand trial for robbery. Details regarding the dismissals were not available.
According to court records, Ochoa has several unresolved misdemeanor cases pending, but no convictions in Riverside County.