SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A man was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for growing marijuana on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
26-year-old Dimas Ortiz of Michoacan, Mexico was sentenced on Monday.
Ortiz oversaw the marijuana growing operations of several other men in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, according to court documents.
Law enforcement officers executed a search of the grow and eradicated over 2,500 marijuana plants, on Aug. 7, 2017. Authorities located a camp site where the on-site workers had camped. Ortiz helped finance the operation, provided the supplies for the grow site, and directed the activities of his co-defendants.
Ortiz expected the operation to yield 800 pounds of processed marijuana, worth $500,000, which he would have received 25% of, Scott said.
In 2016, Ortiz was the driver for the same grow site and him among others harvested 800 pounds of processed marijuana.
The environmental damage to the forest was documented by a non-profit group, Integral Ecology Research Center.
According to the investigation report, at this grow site, a half-full 33.8-oz bottle of carbofuran was found hidden among the fertilizer bags and a bag containing around 20 pounds of suspected powder carbofuran.
Carbofuran is a toxic pesticide that is banned in the United States. A food bottle found at the site had been reused and contained a mixture of refried beans and carbofuran (suspected bait for animals).
The environmental assessment concluded that the carbofuran and other pesticides and fertilizer at the grow site likely posed a significant direct risk to a number of endangered species, including the bald eagle, the northern spotted owl, and the coho salmon.
The report also said four cisterns were discovered with water diverted from mountain streams for use in the marijuana grow’s irrigation system with an estimated 4,500 feet of plastic irrigation lines for water and over 2,200 pounds of soluble fertilizer.
The report estimates that the operation used over 15,000 gallons of water per day. Open campsite latrines were also found in proximity to waterways that would cause watershed contamination from the latrines’ fecal matter after the next substantial rain.
About 1,000 pounds of trash and 500 pounds of plastic irrigation lines were hauled out of the site. Tests on samples of the marijuana plants determined that carbofuran was present in the plant material, Scott said.
Sebastian Martinez Arreola, of Michoacán, Mexico, who had been in the grow site 11 days at the time of his arrest, pleaded guilty to marijuana cultivation charges, and on Feb. 28, 2018, was sentenced to 20 months in prison. Carlos Gutierrez Gonzalez, 25, of Michoacán, Mexico, was sentenced to 50 months in prison.
On Dec. 17, 2018, Armando Mayorga Garcia pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced on March 30.