Friday, September 30, 2016

Mexican National Who Caused Massive CA Forest Fire Must Pay $61M

Hours after federal prosecutors filed charges against him, a Mexican national pleaded guilty Thursday to starting a wildfire that recently burned more than 45 square miles in the Sequoia National Forest. A federal judge sentenced Angel Gilberto Garcia-Avalos, 29, to 13 months in prison and ordered him to pay $61 million in restitution for damage caused by the Cedar fire, according to the U.S. attorney's office. Garcia-Avalos, a resident of Michoacan, Mexico, was driving off-road illegally Aug. 16 when his Nissan Maxima got stuck on a berm and his catalytic converter and muffler ignited dead grass. The fire swiftly spread and burned 29,322 acres in Kern and Tulare counties, according to Acting U.S. Atty. Phillip A. Talbert. Flames destroyed six homes and triggered mandatory evacuations of several communities in both counties. Prosecutors charged Garcia-Avalos with one count of causing a fire to burn in the forest and two counts of giving false information to a forest officer. At his first court appearance Thursday in Bakersfield, he entered the guilty plea and was sentenced. While imposing the penalty, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jennifer L. Thurston commented that Garcia-Avalos exhibited "significant negligence" and made no effort to get help after the blaze erupted...more

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