Two Santa Cruz, Calif., men were sentenced to prison Monday for drug trafficking despite their attorneys’ claims that they were lured to Stateline by promises of free snowboarding, hotel accommodations and dates.
District Judge Michael Gibbons sentenced Oscar Madriz, 27, to six years in Nevada state prison on each count of ex-felon in possession of a firearm and trafficking in a controlled substance, cocaine.
He ordered Madriz to serve the sentences concurrently, and said he must serve a minimum of 26 months on each count, concurrently, before he is eligible for parole.
Codefendant Joseph Perez, 28, was sentenced to five years in prison with a two-year minimum before parole for trafficking in a controlled substance, cocaine.
The two were arrested March 2, 2012, in two drug busts at Stateline casinos along with two other men, following a month-long investigation into drug trafficking and distribution from California.
Authorities recovered 255 grams of cocaine with a street value of $25,000, a vehicle, firearm and currency.
According to reports, the Tri-NET Narcotic Task Force, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Street Enforcement Team, DCSO investigators and the Santa Cruz Police Department worked together in the arrest.
The pair originally pleaded not guilty to several charges, and were set for trial April 23, but changed their pleas to guilty.
Perez’s attorney, David Houston, argued that his client deserved a break because he provided substantial assistance to law enforcement, even though Santa Cruz investigators rejected the offer.
Gibbons raised numerous questions about the crime and details of the arrest which he said remained unanswered in a presentence investigation report.
Houston said the confidential informant had been to Santa Cruz numerous times and was in the habit of selling marijuana, pills and cocaine. Perez and the informant met at a party.
He said Perez turned down several offers from the informant who wanted his client to sell drugs.
“He found out my client was an avid snowboarder and invited him to the Mount Bleu with the promise of free rooms and ski passes.”
He said Perez relented after about six weeks of incessant phone calls from the informant.
“He (Perez) agreed to do it,” Houston said, with the knowledge that he would get free room and board, lift tickets, and a chance to party.”
Madriz came along to provide protection, according to reports, and brought a .40-caliber Glock.
Houston said Perez provided information, but “we were rebuffed.”
“We offered several individuals. I don’t think that takes us out of the framework of asking for a suspended sentence,” Houston said.
He said Perez had a very minor criminal history with no prior felonies or gross misdemeanors.
Lawyer Joey Gilbert, representing Madriz, said his client knew he was ineligible for probation.
“He has no ties to the community. He’s an avid snowboarder. The gun was not used in a threatening manner. They were coming up for a weekend of fun,” Gilbert said.
Prosecutor Erik Levin said Perez never revealed where he got the cocaine, and the amount was 10 times the level sufficient to sentence him to life in prison for trafficking.
“He received a benefit through negotiation,” Levin said.
Both men apologized for their offenses.
Gibbons said he had no choice with mandatory sentencing, especially for Madriz who had a prior felony which precluded him from possessing a firearm.
“This could have turned into a disastrous situation for everyone,” Gibbons said. “What you did was very wrong.”
The judge said he took into consideration Perez’s offer of help to law enforcement, but could not give him a suspended sentence.
“There was assistance, it was not substantial enough for probation, but enough for a reduced sentence,” Gibbons said.