Mexican National Indicted for Marijuana Cultivation Near Sawmill Road in the Sequoia National Forest
FRESNO, Calif. — A federal grand jury returned a three-count indictment Thursday against Saul Arreola-Cardenas, 27, of Mexico, charging him with conspiracy to grow marijuana with the intent to distribute it and damaging public lands and natural resources, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
According to court documents, Arreola-Cardenas was apprehended near Sawmill Road in the Sequoia National Forest after the U.S. Forest Service received a tip regarding a suspected marijuana grow in the area. Law enforcement agents scouted the area in an attempt to locate the site, and they eventually spotted part of the grow site. At that time, they encountered Arreola‑Cardenas walking along a trail near the site while carrying buckets and speaking on a cellphone.
Upon further investigation, law enforcement agents found approximately 1,402 marijuana plants, thousands of pounds of trash, irrigation hose, camping equipment, fertilizer and pesticides at the grow site. Native trees, brush and other vegetation had been cut down at and near the grow site, and dead native wildlife were found at the site as well.
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service with assistance from the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO). Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela Scott is prosecuting the case.
If convicted, Arreola-Cardenas faces a minimum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison, a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison, and a $10 million fine. If convicted of the environmental crime, Arreola-Cardenas faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. If convicted, Arreola-Cardenas may also be 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.