A man was sentenced in Fresno federal court on Monday for growing marijuana on a Native American archaeological site in the Sequoia National Forest, according to U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert.
Carlos Piedra-Murillo, 30, of Mexico, was sentenced to two years and a month in prison for conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess marijuana with an intent to distribute. He was also ordered to pay $5,233 to the U.S. Forest Service to cover damage to the land and natural resources, Talbert said.
Three other men involved with the cultivation are set to be sentenced on June 26. Juan Carlos Lopez, 32, of Lake Elsinore; and Rafael Torres-Armenta, 30, and Javier Garcia Casteneda, both of Mexico, conspired with Piedra to grow marijuana in the Domeland Wilderness southeast of Porterville, according to court documents.
Between May 1, 2016 and Aug. 26, 2016, the men took up 10 acres to grow the plants in the area known for its granite domes and unique geological formations. Authorities found over 8,000 marijuana plants and seized 15 pounds of processed marijuana, a .22 caliber rifle and ammunition, and a pellet rifle, Talbert said.
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It was within the burn site of the Manter Fire of 2000, and some of the new vegetation and trees that were beginning to grow were cut down to make room for the marijuana plants, Talbert said.
Illegal pesticides from Mexico, including carbofuran and zinc phosphide, were found at the campsite. The moving of soil in the area also caused damage to a prehistoric archaeological site belonging to the Tübatulabal tribe. Artifacts were found scattered around the plants, Talbert said.
Water from Trout Creek, a tributary to the Kern River, was also diverted to care for the plants, and piles of trash were found at the campsite.
The other three men each face up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.