26-year-old Alan Fernando Gomez-Paniagua, a citizen of Mexico residing in Delano plead guilty today to conspiring to cultivate, distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
According to court documents, Gomez Paniagua fled from law enforcement officers investigating a large marijuana cultivation site in the McFarland Creek area in the Sequoia National Forest. he was ultimately stopped in a vehicle as he attempted to escape from the area.
Officers were able to find and eradicate 15,852 marijuana plants, over 1,000 marijuana seedlings and a loaded short-barreled shotgun with a pistol grip at the grow site.
According to the Department of Justice, the cultivation operation had a devastating impact on the environment. Numerous oak trees had been cut down and the hillside was terraced to make room for marijuana plants.
Pesticide containers, trash and thousands of feet of irrigation line were strewn throughout the site. Gomez-Paniagua agreed to make restitution to the U.S. Forest Service in over $3,000 to cover the cost of cleaning up the grow site.
He is scheduled for sentencing in federal court in Fresno on January 22, 2019. He faces a mandatory minimum prison term of 10 years and a maximum term of life, along with a $10 million fine.