Mexican National Sentenced for Destructive Marijuana Cultivation Operation in Sierra Mountains in Tulare County
FRESNO, Calif. — Cristobal Chavez-Rocha, 31, of Michoacán, Mexico, was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd to two years and two months in prison and ordered to pay $32,712 in restitution to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for the damage to public land and natural resources, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
On January 22, 2018, Chavez-Rocha pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture marijuana. According to the plea agreement, on May 24, 2017, a search warrant was executed on Bureau of Land Management lands in the Sierra Mountains in Tulare County. When law enforcement officers identified themselves, Chavez-Rocha began running uphill and was ultimately arrested. A total of 4,612 plants were eradicated from the grow site. Chavez-Rocha admitted that he was hired to take care of the marijuana plants at that location and that he had been living at the grow site.
The marijuana cultivation operation caused extensive damage to the land and natural resources. Toxic pesticides and fertilizers, miles of plastic irrigation lines, and large amounts of trash were found, and Native vegetation was removed to make room for the marijuana plants. The marijuana cultivation resulted in damage to public lands, and the cost to the United States to reclaim and restore the illegal grow site to its natural state will be approximately $32,217.
This case was the product of an investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the California Army National Guard’s Counterdrug Task Force, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Park Police Marijuana Interdiction Group, and the Southern Tri-County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian K. Delaney prosecuted the case.