August 6, 2009 in City

Pot grower ordered to pay for environmental damage

By The Spokesman-Review

A Mexican national arrested last August when federal and state agents shut down a large marijuana growing operation in the Okanogan and Wenatchee national forests was sentenced to 75 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution of more than $7,300 for environmental damage it caused.

Moyses Mesa-Barajas, 43, was arrested when a combined drug enforcement operation raided camps in the forests where 10,231 marijuana plants were seized. The camp sites were connected with a network of trains and the pot gardens were tended by people in camouflage clothing.

To create the pot farms, the growers terraced the mountainsides and rerouted streams. The sites also had a variety of fertilizers, pesticides and rat poison, as well as garbage and human waste.

Some of the marijuana tenders escaped but Mesa-Barajas was captured. In May he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture more than 1,000 mariuana plants and destruction of government property.

It took a cooperative effort to detect and dismantle such a large growing operation on federal land, said U.S. Attorney Jim McDevitt. Agencies involved included the U.S. Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Border Patrol, the Washington National Guard, Washington State Patrol, the North Central Washington Narcotics Task Force, the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office, the Twisp Police Department, the Winthrop Marshal’s Office and the North Central Washington Special Response Team.

The grow operations cause significant environmental damage to public lands and pose a risk to people using the forests for recreation, McDevitt added. The U.S. Forest Service spent nearly $13,000 to clean up the area.

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