Indictment Returned for Marijuana Cultivation on Chowchilla Mountain
Charged with Damaging Public Land and Natural Resources
FRESNO, Calif. — A federal grand jury returned a four-count indictment today against Juan Pedro Jimenez, 39, of Ensenada, Mexico, charging him with conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute, manufacturing, and possessing with intent to distribute marijuana in connection with a large-scale cultivation operation in a national forest, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced. Jimenez was also charged with damaging public land and natural resources as a result of the marijuana cultivation activities.
According to court documents, on July 8, 2015, Jimenez was found at the cultivation site on Chowchilla Mountain in the Sierra National Forest in Mariposa County. Agents removed 6,919 marijuana plants from the site and found fertilizer, trash, water lines, propane tanks, and other harmful material. The cultivation activities caused extensive damage to the land and natural resources. Native trees and plants were cut down and steep hillsides were terraced to plant the marijuana. Water was diverted from a nearby creek to irrigate the plants.
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service and Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting the case.
Jimenez was ordered detained pretrial and is scheduled for arraignment on the indictment on July 24, 2015, in federal court in Fresno. If convicted of the drug offenses, he faces a mandatory minimum statutory penalty of five years and a maximum statutory penalty of 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine for each count. If convicted of the environmental crime, Jimenez faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and restitution. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.