Mexican citizen from Michoac�n was involved in 3 cultivation sites in the Sequoia National Forest
U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd sentenced Juan Penaloza-Ramirez (Penaloza), 46, a native and citizen of Michoacán, Mexico, residing in Taft, Monday to seven years and three months in prison for conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana that was grown at three separate marijuana cultivation sites in the Sequoia National Forest, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
In sentencing Penaloza, Judge Drozd ordered the forfeiture of the seized cash, firearms and ammunition seized during the investigation, and he ordered Penaloza to pay $10,198 in restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for the damage to public land and natural resources caused by his cultivation activities.
Penaloza’s sentence follows his guilty plea earlier this year. According to court documents, Penaloza employed growers, deliverymen, and others to cultivate marijuana in Tulare and Kern Counties in the Sequoia National Forest. The grow sites were located at Fay Creek and Brush Creek, tributaries of the Kern River, and the Needles, a series of massive granite rock formations near the North Fork of the Kern River. Every winter, Penaloza traveled to Mexico to recruit people to grow marijuana on public lands in the United States.
At the Fay Creek grow site, law enforcement officers seized 3,151 marijuana plants. Springs were dammed and diverted to irrigate the marijuana plants and large amounts of trash were scattered throughout, including in a flowing stream.
The Brush Creek grow site contained 2,719 marijuana plants. To make room for the marijuana plants, the growers had eradicated new vegetation and trees that sprouted after the 2002 McNally Fire. Law enforcement officers found large piles of trash stuffed between boulders and buried along a stream. The officers also found toxic pesticides and fertilizers spread