November 5, 2018 - FRESNO, Calif. — Maximiliano Farias-Martinez (Farias), 49, a Mexican national residing in Stevinson, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to cultivate marijuana, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
According to court documents, Farias supervised Jose Manuel Sanchez-Zapien (Sanchez), 38, of Dos Palos, who delivered supplies to growers at a marijuana cultivation site in the Sequoia National Forest. The drop point has been used numerous times in the past to supply marijuana growers in the Slick Rock Creek drainage. Law enforcement officers found over 20,000 marijuana plants at the site.
The cultivation operation caused significant damage to public land. Approximately three acres were stripped of vegetation and the ground was terraced to accommodate the marijuana plants. Large amounts of ammonium nitrate and other fertilizers were found at the site. Insecticide containers were found scattered around the site and trash was scattered throughout the grow site. The cost to clean up the area is $8,665. Farias has agreed to make restitution to the Forest Service in that amount.
Farias is scheduled for sentencing on January 22, 2019, in federal court in Fresno by U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd. He faces a minimum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison, along with a $10 million fine. The actual sentence, however, will 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.
Earlier this year, Sanchez pleaded guilty to the drug conspiracy and was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay restitution to the Forest Service.
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service with assistance from Homeland Security Investigations, Office of Investigations of Social Security Administration, Drug Enforcement Administration, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Merced Area Gang and Narcotics Enforcement Team (MAGNET). Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.