Nicolls Fire Investigation Leads To Charges For Marijuana Cultivator
FRESNO, Calif. — A federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment today against Edgardo Fournier, aka Edgardo Fournier-Nigaglioni, 45, of Perris, charging him with conspiring to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, manufacturing marijuana, possessing marijuana with intent to distribute, damaging public land and natural resources, and setting timber afire, announced United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner and Forest Service Special Agent in Charge of the Pacific Southwest Region Scott Harris.
According to court documents, on July 11, 2014, Fournier was involved in the cultivation of 2,090 of marijuana plants in the Smith Canyon area of the Sequoia National Forest. He started several fires while leaving the marijuana cultivation site. The fire, which became known as the Nicolls Fire, was located in the Scodie Mountains, within the federally designated Kiavah Wilderness Area. The fire damaged about 1,680 acres of public land and will cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
When Forest Service agents went to the cultivation site, they eradicated 2,090 marijuana plants and seized rounds of ammunition. The marijuana cultivation operation caused significant damage to the land and natural resources of the forest.
This case was the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service, United States Bureau of Land Management, and Kern County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.
Fournier is in custody as a flight risk and danger to the community and is scheduled for arraignment on July 28, 2014.
If convicted of the drug offenses, Fournier faces a statutory penalty of 10 years to life in prison and a $10 million fine. For damaging public lands and resources, Fournier faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. For causing the Nicolls Fire, Fournier faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. 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.