Several Men pleaded guilty to a Marijuana Cultivation Operation at a Prehistoric Native American Site in California.
Three men pleaded guilty on Monday for conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Two of the men, Rafael Torres-Armenta, 30, and Javier Garcia-Castaneda, 38, hail from Michoacán, Mexico; while the third man Juan Carlos Lopez, 32, is from Lake Elsinore, California. The charges they pleaded guilty to stem from a large-scale grow operation that was discovered on public lands in the Sequoia National Forest.
The men conspired with another Mexican national, Carlos Piedra‑Murillo, 30, to grow marijuana at a prehistoric Tübatulabal Native American archaeological site. Piedra accepted the conspiracy charge after authorities located the operation and destroyed more than 8,000 plants; seized 17 pounds of processed marijuana; and a small caliber rifle.
Authorities say the illegal grow operation caused significant environmental damage to roughly 10 acres. The area the men chose for their operation was the site of a previous fire from a decade ago. The men cut down trees that had started to grow back. They diverted water from a nearby stream as well. Authorities also found zinc phosphide and other agricultural chemicals from Mexico at the cultivation site.
Significant damage was reported at the northernmost portion of the 10-acre site where officials say that holes were dug in the middle of a prehistoric archaeological site, causing significant damage as artifacts were found mixed in with the marijuana plants.
As a part of pleading guilty, Torres, Garcia, and Lopez agreed to reimburse the U.S. Forest Service for the damage they caused to the land and resources.
Lopez faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison with a maximum possible term of 40 and a $5 million fine. Garcia and Torres face a maximum penalty of 20 years and a $1 million fine. They are scheduled to be sentenced on June 26, 2017.
Garcia, Torres, and Piedra are all facing deportation back to Mexico after they complete their sentences.
Ryan Saavedra is a contributor for Breitbart Texas and can be found on Twitter at @RealSaavedra.