Five of the nine men authorities say smuggled $23 million worth of marijuana from Mexico to Pescadero pleaded no contest to felony drug trafficking and received a year in jail.
The plea deal came less than two weeks after the nine defendants were nabbed at Año Nuevo State Park where two large vans came to meet a panga boat carrying 5,148 pounds of marijuana.
Luis Farid Gonzalez, 20, Luis Espinoza Mendoza, 28, Esteban Flores Salazar, 39, Joan Sicairos, 19, and Mark Richard Teixeira, 38, each opted to settle their case in return for no prison time. They were immediately sentenced to a year in jail with credit of 24 days followed by three years supervised probation.
The five others arrested in the bust are Mario Gonzalez, 36, Juan Hernandez, 39, Juan Valdez Lopez, 50, and Phin Vo Vorn, 33. On Thursday, Gonzalez’s defense asked to continue the scheduled preliminary hearing but the other defendants objected. Judge Craig Parsons refused to split the cases and continued the hearing for all until Aug. 27.
Authorities have not said which defendants were in the van and which came in the panga boat holding the 180 bales of marijuana. Some are residents of Sinaloa, Mexico, and the others San Diego and San Jose.
The Department of Homeland Security alerted the San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force that marijuana boats might be landing off the county coast and, at 10:15 p.m. Aug. 1, agents spotted the vans entering the beach to meet the boat landing on the beach. Bales of marijuana were moved from the boat to the vans and agents stopped them as they drove onto Highway 101.
On the beach, agents reported finding an inflatable raft, rain gear and cellphones. A local fisherman spotted the unmanned panga boat which was recovered by the U.S. Coast Guard.
The case has similarities to another maritime smuggling incident in Pescadero. More than 1,000 pounds of marijuana were discovered at Pescadero State Beach after the Sheriff’s Office responded to reports a boat was spotted along the coast and a SUV stuck in the sand. Southern California has also had incidents of drug smuggling using boats to carry the product from Mexico.
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