On November 17th, 2021

Mexican Native Sentenced to Prison for Harmful Marijuana Grow in the Sierra National Forest California DOJ and CDFW assisted with investigation

“The damage to our public land and waterways from illegal marijuana grows can take years to recover from when water is diverted and banned pesticides are used.  Unfortunately, this is a consistent problem in our state and there is a need for law enforcement to investigate.” – CSLEA President Alan Barcelona

FRESNO— On November 15, 2021, Lester Eduardo Cardenas-Flores, 25, a native and citizen of Mexico, was sentenced to two years and five months in prison for conspiring to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute marijuana.

Cardenas was also ordered to pay $48,000 in restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for the extreme damage that the cultivation operation had on public land. Cardenas pleaded guilty on Aug. 24, 2021.

According to court documents, the cultivation operation consisted of 2,307 marijuana plants in the Sierra National Forest in Madera County. Cardenas was found carrying fertilizer into the grow site and later apprehended there. The cultivation operation caused significant damage to the area, which serves as habitat for the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog, an endangered species and the California spotted owl, which is currently being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Agents found deadly, banned pesticides sprayed directly on the plants.

The cultivation site was located in the Chiquito Creek watershed, which drains into the Fresno River before flowing into the San Joaquin River. Approximately 8.55 million gallons of water had been diverted from a nearby natural stream to irrigate the marijuana plants.

This case was investigated by the

  • S. Forest Service,
  • California Department of Fish and Wildlife,
  • Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) of the California Department of Justice,
  • and the Madera County Sheriff’s Office.

The environmental damage to the forest was analyzed and documented by Integral Ecology Research Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to the research and conservation of wildlife and their ecosystems.

Cardenas’s co-defendant, Luis Madrigal-Reyes, 37, also a native and citizen of Mexico, was sentenced on Oct. 18, 2021, to two years and five months in prison.

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