Marijuana Cultivator Pleads Guilty to Environmental Damage Caused by Marijuana Grown in Sequoia National Forest
FRESNO, Calif. — Juan Carlos Martinez-Tinoco (Martinez), 42, of Mexico, pleaded guilty today to committing a depredation against public land and natural resources in the vicinity of The Needles, a series of massive granite rock formations in the Sequoia National Forest in Tulare County, Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
According to court documents, between March 1, 2015, and August 4, 2015, Martinez was involved in a marijuana cultivation operation consisting of approximately 2,608 marijuana plants in the Needles area of the Sequoia National Park. The operation caused extensive damage to public land and natural resources. Agents observed evidence of the use of harmful poisons, including 50-pound bags of high-nitrogen fertilizer. They also noted that many native plants and trees had been cut to make room for the marijuana plants. Large piles of trash were stuffed under boulders and buried along a stream. Water was diverted from a spring that supports wildlife. The water source for the grow site drains into the Upper Kern River, which contains the Kern River Rainbow Trout, a localized species of rainbow trout that has been designated in the state of California as a “Species of Special Concern.” Martinez has also agreed to pay $4,286 in restitution to the U.S. Forest Service to clean up the damaged area.
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, and the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting the case.
Martinez, who is detained, is scheduled for sentencing on December 5, 2016. He faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will 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.