Mexican national gets prison time, must pay restitution for damage caused by marijuana grow in Tulare County mountains
FRESNO — A Mexican national will serve time in prison and pay thousands for the damage he caused to public lands growing marijuana in the forests of Tulare County.
On April 9, U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd sentenced 31-year-old Cristobal Chavez-Rocha of Michoacán, Mexico to two years and two months in prison and ordered to pay $32,712 in restitution to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for the damage to public land and natural resources.
On Jan. 22, 2018, Chavez-Rocha pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture marijuana. According to the plea agreement, on May 24, 2017, a search warrant was executed on Bureau of Land Management lands in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Tulare County. When law enforcement officers identified themselves, Chavez-Rocha began running uphill and was ultimately arrested. A total of 4,612 plants were eradicated from the grow site. Chavez-Rocha admitted that he was hired to take care of the marijuana plants at that location and that he had been living at the grow site, according U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott.
The marijuana cultivation operation caused extensive damage to the land and natural resources. Toxic pesticides and fertilizers, miles of plastic irrigation lines, and large amounts of trash were found, and Native vegetation was removed to make room for the marijuana plants. The marijuana cultivation resulted in damage to public lands, and the cost to the United States to reclaim and restore the illegal grow site to its natural state will be approximately $32,217.
This case was the product of an investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the California Army National Guard’s Counterdrug Task Force, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Park Police Marijuana Interdiction Group, and the Southern Tri-County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian K. Delaney prosecuted the case.