Guatemalan man pleads guilty to marijuana operation in Sequoia National Forest

Gavel with U.S. flag (FILE)
Posted at 12:44 PM, May 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-13 15:44:36-04

FRESNO, Calif. (KERO) — A Guatemalan man pleaded guilty on Friday to conspiring to grow and distribute 2,864 marijuana plants in the Twin Springs area of the Sequoia National Forest, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California.

According to court documents, when officers went to the grow site, Oscar Alfredo Castanaza Ortega, 37, a native of Guatemala, ran and threw down a loaded .38‑caliber firearm and a box of .38‑caliber ammunition before he was arrested. He said he was paid $100 a day to water and trim the plants, according to court documents.

The marijuana grow operation damaged the land and natural resources. Trees, brush and other vegetation were cut down and large amounts of fertilizers and pesticides were found near the site, according to court documents.

Thousands of pounds of trash and assorted equipment were found at the site that needed to be removed by helicopter.

Castanaza agreed to pay $7,819 in restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for the environmental damage.

Castanaza faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum penalty of life in prison, as well as a fine up to $10 million. He is set to be sentenced Oct. 28th.