A Taft resident was sentenced Monday to seven years and three months in prison for growing marijuana at three sites in the Sequoia National Forest.

Juan Penaloza-Ramirez, 46, was also ordered to pay $10,918 in restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for damage to public land and natural resources caused by growing the marijuana, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California. 

Penaloza pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess with the intent to distribute marijuana.

Penaloza employed growers, deliverymen and others to cultivate marijuana in Tulare and Kern Counties in the Sequoia National Forest, the release said. The grow sites were located at Fay Creek and Brush Creek, tributaries of the Kern River, and the Needles, a series of massive granite rock formations near the North Fork of the Kern River.

More than 8,000 pot plants were seized during the investigation, according to the release. Law enforcement also seized more than $7,000 in cash, 16 guns and more than 2,000 rounds of ammunition during searches of the residences of Penaloza and co-defendant Russell Lee Riggs, 69, of Weldon.

Riggs is set for sentencing on Sept. 11. 

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