Craig Three men arrested during an All Crimes Enforcement Team drug sweep at a Craig apartment unit earlier this year pleaded guilty Wednesday to reduced charges in Moffat County District Court.
ACET arrested 10 men after a March 25 search of an apartment unit in the 400 block of Tucker Street.
Armando Zavala-Flores, Julio Carlin-Robles and Arcadio Contreras-Alcala were originally charged with the same four felonies - distribution of a Schedule 2 controlled substance, two counts of possession of a Schedule 2 controlled substance with intent to sell or distribute, and conspiracy to distribute or manufacture a Schedule 2 controlled substance.
They each pleaded guilty Wednesday to different charges.
Zavala-Flores pleaded guilty to possession of one gram or less of a Schedule 2 controlled substance, specifically cocaine, a Class 6 felony.
He was sentenced to a suspended one-year prison term on the condition he complies with deportation to Mexico and never illegally re-enters the U.S. If he enters illegally again, he will serve his prison term as well as be open to additional criminal charges.
If Zavala-Flores re-enters the country legally, he must report to the Moffat County Probation Department within 24 hours of entering the country and serve a year on probation. Violating his probation would open Zavala-Flores to resentencing for his possession conviction.
Carlin-Robles pleaded guilty to distribution of a Schedule 2 controlled substance, specifically methamphetamine, a Class 5 felony.
His sentencing was scheduled for Oct. 1. He faces up to 12 years in prison and up to a $750,000 fine. Any prison sentence served would be followed by a five-year parole period.
Contreras-Alcala pleaded guilty to possession of more than one gram of a Schedule 2 controlled substance, specifically methamphetamine, a Class 5 felony.
Contreras-Alcala also expects to be sentenced Oct. 1. He faces up to three years in prison, with a two-year parole period, and up to a $100,000 fine.
The 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office agreed to cap possible prison sentences at 12 and three years, respectively, for Carlin-Robles and Contreras-Alcala.
During the plea process, Contreras-Alcala became noticeably upset and addressed Judge Michael O'Hara.
"I just want to know why the law isn't fair," a court translator said on Contreras-Alcala's behalf. "I know I am being accused because my name is on the lease of the apartment."
It is not a defense to say illegal drugs may have belonged to another person, O'Hara said.
When the judge asked Contreras-Alcala whether he was pleading guilty by his own volition, he asked what choice he had.
"If I go to trial, I know they're going to try to convince a jury of crimes I didn't commit," Contreras-Alcala said. "This is a lighter sentence.
"What am I supposed to say?"
Contreras-Alcala also asked why other suspects in the case were set free when he still faced charges.
Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Snow said every decision made in the cases regarding the different ACET arrests was based on the available evidence against each suspect.
Two other suspects arrested during the same ACET operation also appeared Wednesday in District Court. Horacio Contreras-Alcala and Marco Contreras-Alcala were granted continuances until August 27.
Horacio faces the same four felonies as the three men did before their plea agreements - distribution of a Schedule 2 controlled substance, two counts of possession of a Schedule 2 controlled substance with intent to sell or distribute, and conspiracy to distribute or manufacture a Schedule 2 controlled substance.
Marco faces an additional count of possession of a Schedule 2 controlled substance with intent to sell or distribute and a sentence enhancer of possession of a deadly weapon by a special offender.
Another suspect who also was arrested by ACET on March 25, Edgar Pena-Villava, was not inside the apartment during the sting. He appeared in County Court on Wednesday, and his case was continued until Aug. 19.
He faces the same four felony charges as the men who appeared in District Court -distribution of a Schedule 2 controlled substance, two counts of possession of a Schedule 2 controlled substance with intent to sell or distribute, and conspiracy to distribute or manufacture a Schedule 2 controlled substance.
Of the 11 total men arrested by ACET on March 25, the District Attorney's Office has dismissed charges against three suspects and accepted plea agreements with five.
Horacio, Marco and Pena-Villava are the only suspects awaiting further court dates.
After the March 25 search, ACET Commander Garrett Wiggins stated law enforcement believed the 10 men arrested from the apartment unit were part of a larger organized crime ring. The search warrant served during the arrests largely stemmed from an ongoing investigation into methamphetamine and cocaine distribution, he said.
Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or email@example.com