TUOLUMNE COUNTY (CBS13) — A Mexican national was sentenced to 4.5 years behind bars for operating a toxic marijuana cultivation in the Stanislaus National Forest, the U.S. Attorney's Office said on Thursday.
Eleno Fernandez-Garcia, 37, of Michoacan, was previously convicted of conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana and was ordered to pay $45,688 in restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for damage the operation and toxic chemicals caused to the land.
A pesticide, two rodenticides, 837 pounds of soluble fertilizer, 45 gallons of liquid fertilizer and a dead raccoon were found at the grow site, officials said. Additionally, more than 2,000 pounds of trash and irrigation tubing were found.
According to Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert, the grow site was in a grazing permit area where cows roamed freely and were able to access the plants and chemicals. The area also sits upstream from numerous species listed as federally threatened un the Endangered Species Act—including the Central Valley steelhead, chinook salmon and yellow-legged frog.
The operation was located in the Basin Creek drainage of the forest in Tuolumne County, officials said. Authorities located 9,654 marijuana plants.
Fernandez-Garcia was located at the site, which is near recreational activities and Sugar Pine Springs—a natural spring used by bottled water companies. He was found with pruning shears, two cellphones and he was covered in marijuana debris.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said three other people fled from the area.
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