An Auberry man was charged Thursday by a federal grand jury in connection with a large-scale marijuana cultivation that was found in the Sierra National Forest, acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert said.
Gary Lee Ortiz, 41, was charged with conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess marijuana, maintaining a drug-involved premises, damaging land and natural resources, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number, Talbert said.
Ortiz maintained the operation at his home in Auberry and also on public land near Shaver Lake, according to court documents. Officers removed 12,746 plants, and over 2,000 pounds of irrigation hoses, fertilizers and trash from the sites, Talbert said. Four guns were also found in Ortiz’s home.
The operation caused damage to land and natural resources and was irrigated by water diverted from Mill Creek, which flows into the San Joaquin River, Talbert said.
Ortiz is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 9. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison and various fines, including a $10 million fine for each drug count.