Mexican nationals caught growing 1,800 plants in Sequoia National Forest
FRESNO — Marijuana may be legal to grow in California, but growing thousands of plants on public land is still a major felony, or three major felonies.
Three Mexican nationals are getting an education in the stiff penalties associated with illegal pot gardens after being caught for growing marijuana in the Kiavah Wilderness area of Sequoia National Forest. On June 10, Felipe Angeles Valdez-Colima (Valdez), 36, of Michoacán, Mexico was sentenced to 10 years in prison for conspiring to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute marijuana. U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd ordered Valdez to pay $7,620 in restitution for the damage he caused to the National Forest.
Valdez and his co-defendants, Mauricio Vaca-Bucio, 31, and Rodolfo Torres-Galvan, 30, also of Mexico, were apprehended after a two-month investigation. Law enforcement officers saw Valdez and Torres enter a Camaro driven by Vaca and were later stopped in Weldon near Lake Isabella. Officers found freshly harvested marijuana in their vehicle and located over 1,800 marijuana plants at the grow sites on the interconnected trails from the drop point. The officers also found highly toxic illegal pesticides, including carbofuran and zinc phosphide, in the Camaro and at the grow sites.
Torres was sentenced to three years and 10 months in prison on May 13. Vaca is scheduled for sentencing on Aug. 5. He faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison, along with a $10 million fine.