Crime

Man convicted in connection with ‘toxic’ marijuana grow forest near Yosemite

A sign directing Yosemite National Park visitors to The Majestic Yosemite Hotel, formerly the Ahwahnee and Yosemite Valley Lodge, formerly Yosemite Lodge at Yosemite National Park in Yosemite, Calif., Wednesday, March 23, 2016.
A sign directing Yosemite National Park visitors to The Majestic Yosemite Hotel, formerly the Ahwahnee and Yosemite Valley Lodge, formerly Yosemite Lodge at Yosemite National Park in Yosemite, Calif., Wednesday, March 23, 2016. akuhn@mercedsunstar.com

A man from Mexico pleaded guilty Monday to growing marijuana in a way that was toxic to the Sequoia National Forest, according to federal officials.

Maximiliano Farias Martinez, 49, supervised 38-year-old Jose Manuel Sanchez Zapien of Dos Palos, who delivered supplies to growers at a marijuana cultivation site in an area of the forest called Slick Rock Creek drainage, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced on Monday in a news release.

That area of the forest has been used as a “drop point” numerous times, and law enforcement officers found more than 20,000 plants at the site, according to a news release. The operation caused significant damage to public land.

About three acres were stripped of natural vegetation and the ground was made into terraces to grow marijuana, officials said. A large amount of ammonium nitrate and other fertilizers were found at the site, as well as insecticide containers and trash.

Farias Martinez has agreed to pay restitution to the Forest Service, which cleaned up the site at a cost of $8,665, officials said.

He is scheduled for sentencing on Jan. 22 in federal court in Fresno by U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd. Farias Martinez faces a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison. He also faces a $10 million fine.

Sanchez Zapien was sentenced in May to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay restitution to the Forest Service, officials confirmed.

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