Largest Bust In Sequoia National Park History

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
FRESNO, Calif.- A federal grand jury indicted two Mexican citizens Thursday in connection with one of the largest seizures of marijuana grown on national park land, U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said.

The indictment charges Salvador Pineda-Penaloza, 27, and Augustin Gutierrez Martinez, 19, with conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess marijuana with the intent to distribute the drug, as well as manufacturing and possessing cannabis with an intent to distribute.

Rangers came across the men on May 4 driving in a remote area of Sequoia National Park, and authorities later linked them to the plants through questioning, said park spokeswoman Alexandra Picavet.

The pair were arrested two days later, after rangers from several national parks had uprooted 17,334 pot plants and destroyed a nursery of 800 seedlings, making it the largest marijuana raid in the park's history.

Although the plants were just three inches tall, they had a street value of more than $43 million, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Escobar.

Rangers also found pesticides and an extensive irrigation system at nearby camps, which were equipped with enough gear for several people to live for an extended period of time.

"We are seeing a massive increase in the amount of marijuana that is being grown on federal public lands," Scott said. "This poses a real danger to citizens who just want to recreate in the forestlands."

Last year, authorities destroyed more than 1.1 million pot plants grown on California public lands that were worth about $4.5 billion on the street, Scott said.

If convicted, Pineda-Penaloza and Gutierrez Martinez face a maximum prison sentence of life and a $4 million fine per count.

They are scheduled to be arraigned on May 18.

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