Riverside County Man Pleads Guilty To Conspiracy To Grow Marijuana And Setting Fires In National Forest
FRESNO, Calif. — Edgardo Fournier, aka Edgardo Fournier-Nigaglioni, 46, of Perris, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, and setting timber afire in the Sequoia National Forest, U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
According to the guilty plea, from about April 1, 2014 to July 12, 2014, Fournier helped water and tend 2,090 marijuana plants at a grow site in the Smith Canyon area of the Sequoia National Forest in Kern County. He admitted that on July 11 and 12, he lit fires in the vicinity of the grow site within the boundaries of the federally designated Kiavah Wilderness Area. The fires converged and became known as the Nicolls Fire. The Nicolls Fire destroyed about 1,680 acres of public land causing over $6.5 million of damage. The fire did not damage the marijuana cultivation site, which also caused significant damage to the land and natural resources of the forest.
Fournier is scheduled for sentencing on March 30, 2015. He faces a prison term of between five and 40 years for the drug conspiracy and up to a $5 million fine. The arson charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory sentencing 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, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.