Off-Site Manager of Marijuana Grow in Shasta-Trinity National Forest Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Dimas Ortiz, 26, of Michoacán, Mexico, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for growing marijuana on the National Forest and for depredation of Public Lands and Resources, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
According to court documents, Ortiz oversaw the marijuana growing operations of several other men in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest to the west of Weaverville, near Limedyke Mountain, at an elevation of approximately 2,500 feet. On Aug. 7, 2017, law enforcement officers executed a search of the grow and eradicated more than 2,500 marijuana plants. A camp site was found where the on-site workers had camped. Ortiz oversaw the operation from a distance. He helped finance the operation, provided the supplies for the grow site, and directed the activities of his co-defendants. Ortiz expected the operation to yield 800 pounds of processed marijuana, worth $500,000, of which he was to receive 25%. In 2016, Ortiz was the driver for the same grow site and he and others harvested approximately 800 pounds of processed marijuana.
The environmental damage to the forest was analyzed and documented by Integral Ecology Research Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to the research and conservation of wildlife and their ecosystems that has examined over 100 public land marijuana grow sites.
According to the report of the investigation filed with the court, at this grow site, a half-full 33.8‑oz. bottle of carbofuran was found hidden among the fertilizer bags and a bag containing an estimated 20 pounds of suspected powder carbofuran. Carbofuran is a toxic pesticide that is banned in the United States. A food bottle found at the site had been reused and contained a mixture of refried beans and carbofuran (suspected bait for animals). The environmental assessment concluded that the carbofuran and other pesticides and fertilizer at the grow site likely posed a significant direct risk to a number of endangered species, including the bald eagle, the northern spotted owl, and the coho salmon. Four cisterns were discovered with water diverted from mountain streams for use in the marijuana grow’s irrigation system with an estimated 4,500 feet of plastic irrigation lines for water and over 2,200 pounds of soluble fertilizer. The report estimates that the operation used over 15,000 gallons of water per day. Open campsite latrines were also found in proximity to waterways that would cause watershed contamination from the latrines’ fecal matter after the next substantial rain. About 1,000 pounds of trash and 500 pounds of plastic irrigation lines were hauled out of the site. Tests on samples of the marijuana plants determined that carbofuran was present in the plant material.
This case was the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service with the assistance of agents from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the North State Marijuana Investigation Team and deputies of the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney David W. Spencer prosecuted the case.
Sebastian Martinez Arreola, of Michoacán, Mexico, who had been in the grow site approximately 11 days at the time of his arrest, pleaded guilty to marijuana cultivation charges, and on Feb. 28, 2018, was sentenced to 20 months in prison. Carlos Gutierrez Gonzalez, 25, of Michoacán, Mexico, was sentenced to 50 months in prison. On Dec. 17, 2018, Armando Mayorga Garcia pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced on March 30.