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Press Release

Merced County Resident Indicted for Conspiracy to Grow Marijuana in Sequoia National Forest

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California

FRESNO, Calif. — A federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment today against Jose Manuel Sanchez-Zapien (Sanchez), 37, a native and citizen of Michoacán, Mexico, residing in Dos Palos, charging him with conspiring to manufacture marijuana and damaging public lands and natural resources, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to court documents, Sanchez was found in April and June of this year at a drop point delivering supplies to growers at a marijuana cultivation site in the Slick Rock Creek drainage in the Sequoia National Forest. The drop point has been used numerous times in the past as a supply drop point for marijuana growers to access grow sites in the Slick Rock Creek drainage.

This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service with assistance from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.

If convicted of the drug conspiracy, Sanchez faces a minimum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison, along with a $10 million fine. If convicted of the environmental crime, Sanchez faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Sanchez is also liable for restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for damages stemming from the marijuana cultivation activities. 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.

Updated June 22, 2017

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 1:17-cr-159-DAD-