FRESNO, Calif. — U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd sentenced Marco Lizandro Duarte-Beltran, 34, of Michoacán, Mexico, today to 10 years in prison for conspiring to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
Judge Drozd also ordered Duarte-Beltran to pay $12,644 in restitution to clean up the area.
According to court documents, Duarte-Beltran cultivated 1,082 marijuana plants in the Millwood Creek area of the Sequoia National Forest for four months. Duarte-Beltran was apprehended at the marijuana cultivation site after a two‑month investigation, wearing camouflage clothing and armed with a loaded revolver.
The marijuana cultivation operation caused extensive environmental damage: native vegetation and tree limbs had been cut down to make room for the plants; three areas had been terraced for the campsite where Duarte-Beltran resided; water had been diverted from a water source on federal land to irrigate the plants; and irrigation tubing, trash, seed trays, seed pots, fertilizers, and pesticides were scattered throughout the grow site.
This case was the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service. Homeland Security Investigations, Enforcement and Removal Operations, the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), the California National Guard, and the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office assisted in the investigation. Integral Ecology Research Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to the research and conservation of wildlife and their ecosystems, analyzed and documented the environmental damage. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar prosecuted the case.