A Mexican man will spend more than six years in prison for operating a large marijuana grow that did more than $10,000 damage to the Okanogan National Forest, according to the U.S attorney's office.
Moyses Mesa-Barajas, 43, was arrested last August after federal and state officials found him in a grow complex with more than 10,000 plants.
Mesa-Barajas claimed ownership of more than 3,000 of the plants, according to federal court documents, and he pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to manufacture more than 1,000 marijuana plants and to destruction of government property wroth more than $1,000.
His arrest came after federal agents spotted grow operations in the forest connected by trails.
A search warrant served at the site resulted in Mesa-Barajas' arrest, though several people escaped and were never found, according to a news release. There, federal agents found empty containers of fertilizer, pesticides and rat poison and determined the growers had re-routed streams, terraced mountain slopes, and generally just trashed the place.
On Tuesday, Judge Fred Van Sickle sentenced Mesa-Barajas to 75 months in prison.
He's to pay about $7,300 in restitution. If he's able to gain United States citizenship before he's released, he'll be on probation for five years, records show.
James McDevitt, U.S attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, praised the sentence in a prepared statement.
“Since no single agency has the manpower or resources to detect and dismantle large scale grow operations on public land, this case highlights the success that can be achieved with cooperative investigations by multiple state and federal agencies. Marijuana traffickers cause significant environmental damage to our public lands each year, not to mention the risk they pose to the public and recreationalists,” the statement reads.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Forest Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the North Central Washington Narcotics Task Force, the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington State Patrol, the Twisp Police Department, the Winthrop Marshal’s Office, North Central Washington Special Response Team, the U.S. Border Patrol, the Washington National Guard, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This case was prosecuted by Tim Ohms, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.