FRESNO — U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner said Miguel Gomez-Gomez, 26, of Dinuba, pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to grow, distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana grown on public land in the Sierra National Forest.
Gomez-Gomez also agreed to pay $25,941 in restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for the costs of removing more than 7,500 pounds of debris caused by the cultivation operation.
According to the guilty plea, in the summer of 2009, Gomez-Gomez provided workers with supplies and materials for a large marijuana grow in the Rock Creek area of the Sierra National Forest. He also negotiated marijuana sales. Court documents point out that law enforcement agents eradicated more than 49,206 plants from the site.
Gomez-Gomez is scheduled for sentencing on Aug. 20 before U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill. Gomez-Gomez faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $4 million fine.
Gomez-Gomez is the latest of seven defendants to plead guilty in the case. Four have pleaded guilty and have received sentences of time served, four, 6 1/2 and just over 11 years in prison. Salvador Gutierrez Machuca has pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 4. Charges are pending against Diocelina Bustos Abarca.
This case is the product of a wiretap investigation by the Central Valley Marijuana Investigation Team (CVMIT) of the Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force. CVMIT consists of agents from the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Office of Homeland Security Investigations, National Park Service, the California Department of Justice and the Fresno and Tulare counties’ Sheriffs’ Offices.
The investigation was also conducted in conjunction with Operation Save Our Sierra (SOS), a multi-agency marijuana eradication effort spearheaded in 2009 by the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, which ultimately resulted in the removal of nearly 424,000 marijuana plants from public lands. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.