Carlos Piedra-Murillo, 30, pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to grow and distribute marijuana from the Domeland Wilderness in Tulare County and Sequoia National Forest, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
The large-scale operation damaged public land and natural resources, including a prehistoric Tubatulabal Native American archaeological site, authorities said.
Piedra, of Mexico, conspired with three other Mexican nationals, authorities said. Officers found 8,000 marijuana plants and seized 15 pounds of processed marijuana, a .22 caliber rifle, a pellet rifle, and ammunition.
The site covered about 10 acres in the area of the 2000 Manter fire. Vegetation and trees that sprouted after the fire were cut to make room for the marijuana plants, water was diverted from Trout Creek, and fertilizer and pesticides, including illegal zinc phosphide, a toxic rodenticide from Mexico, were found, along with piles of trash.
Piedra will be sentenced June 5 in federal court in Fresno and faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.