SACRAMENTO, Calif. Nov. 26, 2012 — Jose Pineda-Mendoza, 26, of El Salvador, pleaded guilty today to possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Shasta County Sheriff's Marijuana Eradication Team, which includes the U.S. Forest Service. Assistant United States Attorney Daniel S. McConkie is prosecuting the case.
According to court documents, in July 2011, law enforcement found 2,128 marijuana plants being grown in the Shasta Trinity National Forest, 25 miles north of Redding. Although remote, it was within a few miles of several campsites and a boat ramp. Agents estimated that about 500 pounds of dangerous chemicals had been used in the grow site as fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides, including a highly toxic chemical used to kill bears and dear. The site was above a stream that feeds into Shasta Lake about 1200 yards away.
On July 14, 2011, law enforcement agents entered the grow site and found a camp area with one sleeping bag, gardening and irrigation supplies, and food. They saw Pineda-Mendoza watering plants. When they ordered him to stop, he dropped a pellet air rifle. Pineda-Mendoza was arrested. He had in his possession a loaded (17-rounds) Sig P226 9 mm semi-automatic handgun and an additional 11 rounds of ammunition in his pocket. Nearby was a pair of trimming scissors.
Pineda-Mendoza is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge William B. Shubb on February 11, 2013. He faces a penalty of five years to life in prison. The actual sentence, however, will 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.
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