A federal grand jury returned a four-count indictment Thursday against Alan Fernando Gomez-Paniagua, 25, a citizen of Mexico residing in Delano, charging him with conspiring to cultivate, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, cultivating marijuana, damaging public land and natural resources, and being an alien in possession of a firearm.
According to court documents, Gomez-Paniagua was connected to a marijuana cultivation site in the McFarland Creek area in the Sequoia National Forest. At the grow site, officers found over 15,000 marijuana plants, over 1,000 marijuana seedlings, and a loaded short barreled shotgun with a pistol grip.
The marijuana cultivation activities caused extensive damage to the environment. Numerous oak trees had been cut down and the hillside was terraced to make room for the marijuana plants. Pesticide containers and trash were strewn throughout the site.
Gomez-Paniagua is scheduled to be arraigned in federal court in Fresno on May 8, 2017. If convicted of the most serious offenses, the drug charges, Gomez-Paniagua faces a mandatory minimum prison term of 10 years and a maximum term of life, along with a $10 million fine.