Mexican National Eleno Fernandez-Garcia Charged with Marijuana Cultivation Operation in Stanislaus National Forest in Tuolumne County
(STL.News) – A federal grand jury returned a three-count indictment today against Eleno Fernandez-Garcia, 36, a native and citizen of Mexico, charging him with conspiring to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, manufacturing marijuana, and damaging public lands and natural resources, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
According to court documents, the cultivation operation consisted of over 1,000 marijuana plants and was located in the Basin Creek drainage in the Stanislaus National Forest in Tuolumne County. Fernandez was found at the grow site in possession of pruning shears and two cellphones covered with marijuana debris. The cultivation operation is alleged to have caused significant damage to the environment. The area is near recreational activities and a natural spring used for bottled water.
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) of the California Department of Justice. Integral Ecology Research Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the research and conservation of wildlife and their ecosystems, analyzed and documented the environmental damage. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.
Fernandez-Garcia is scheduled for arraignment on the indictment on August 21. If convicted of the drug conspiracy and manufacturing offenses, he faces a mandatory minimum statutory penalty of 10 years and a maximum penalty of life in prison, as well as a $10 million fine. The environmental charge carries a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. In addition, the defendant may be liable for restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for damage sustained to the land and natural resources as a result of the cultivation activities. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.