Mexican National Faces Life in Prison for Illegal Cannabis Grow Operation in the Sequoia National Forest

The United States Department of Justices (DOJ) entered into a plea agreement with Mexican National, Alan Fernand Gomez-Paniagua 26, for illegally growing marijuana in the Sequoia National Forest. Enforcement authorities participating in the Forest Watch program found and confiscated 15,852 marijuana plants and over 1,000 marijuana seedlings. Gomez-Paniagua faces a minimum prison term of 10 years with a maximum of life along with a $10 million fine. Gomez-Paniagua also agreed to pay $3,826 in restitution for cleaning up the grow site, which was covered in trash, pesticide containers and irrigation lines. The grow operation also caused environmental damage including the cutting down of oak trees and damage to a hill side due to terracing.

In August, the DOJ announced the results of a year-long Forest Watch program that ended in September 2018. The program brought together federal, state and local authorities to identify and stop large illegal marijuana grow operations on public land, which negatively impacts the environment by contaminating water, causes deforestation and results in trash dumps. The efforts resulted in over 80 investigations, 77 arrests and the confiscation of over 140,000 pounds of equipment, illegal fertilizers and chemicals, 638,000 plants and 25,000 pounds of processed marijuana.