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Press Release

Mexican National Enters Guilty Plea To Marijuana Cultivation Operation In Sequoia National Forest

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

FRESNO, Calif. — Alan Fernando Gomez-Paniagua, 26, a citizen of Mexico residing in Delano, California, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to cultivate, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.

According to court documents, Gomez-Paniagua fled from law enforcement officers investigating a large marijuana cultivation site in the McFarland Creek area in the Sequoia National Forest. He was ultimately stopped in a vehicle as he attempted to escape from the area. At the grow site, officers found and eradicated 15,852 marijuana plants, over 1,000 marijuana seedlings, and a loaded short-barreled shotgun with a pistol grip.

The marijuana cultivation operation had a devastating impact on the environment. Numerous oak trees had been cut down and the hillside was terraced to make room for the marijuana plants. Pesticide containers, trash, and thousands of feet of irrigation line were strewn throughout the site. In pleading guilty, Gomez-Paniagua agreed to make restitution to the U.S. Forest Service in the amount of $3,826 to cover the cost of cleaning up the grow site.

Gomez-Paniagua is scheduled for sentencing in federal court in Fresno on January 22, 2019. He faces a mandatory minimum prison term of 10 years and a maximum term of life, along with a $10 million 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.

This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Southern Tri-County Central Valley California High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Kern County Sheriff’s Office, and California Multi-jurisdictional Methamphetamine Enforcement Team (CalMMET), a task force administered by the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.

Updated October 29, 2018

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 1:17-cr-118 DAD