A Mexican citizen who’d been living in Dos Palos pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to “manufacturing” massive amounts of marijuana in the Sequoia National Forest, which caused major damage to the federally protected wilderness.
Jose Manuel Sanchez-Zapien was arrested June 13 at a “drop point” in the Slick Rock Creek drainage area delivering supplies to growers who were camped out near Alder Creek, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
Investigators found more than 20,500 marijuana plants at the site, authorities said.
“Approximately three acres were almost completely stripped of vegetation and the ground was terraced to accommodate the marijuana plants,” Justice Department officials said in the statement. “Large amounts of ammonium nitrate and other fertilizers were found at the site. Insecticide containers and other trash were scattered throughout the site.”
The 38-year-old Mexican citizen is scheduled for sentencing Feb. 5 and faces a minimum of 10 years in prison.
“Sanchez also agreed to pay restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for damage to public land and natural resources caused by the cultivation operation,” officials said.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Forest Service with assistance from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General.
Rob Parsons: 209-385-2482