7 July – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California announced that Marco Hernandez, formerly of Sonoma, California, pleaded guilty late yesterday to trafficking methamphetamine and laundering money.
Mr. Hernandez, 37, was indicted along with multiple co-conspirators by a federal grand jury on March 31, 1999. He was charged with numerous narcotics trafficking and money laundering offenses. On April 7, 1999, the day the indictment became public, Mr. Hernandez fled across the Mexican border to escape arrest. He remained an international fugitive until June 2004, when Panamanian authorities apprehended him and expelled him to the United States to face prosecution. He is currently in custody.
Pursuant to the plea agreement, Mr. Hernandez pleaded guilty to one count of methamphetamine trafficking, in violation of Title 18 United States Code Section 841, and to three counts of money laundering, in violation of Title 18 United States Code Section 1956.
In pleading guilty, Mr. Hernandez admitted that on or about February 5, 1999, he and his associates had possessed roughly 450 grams of methamphetamine in Northern California and intended to distribute that methamphetamine to others. Mr. Hernandez also admitted that on December 3, 1998, he had laundered $50,000 of funds he believed to be the proceeds of illegal narcotics sales.
Mr. Hernandez is the last of thirteen defendants to plead guilty as a result of an extensive joint investigation conducted in 1998 and 1999 by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement (BNE), the United States Customs Service (now known as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
The sentencing of Mr. Hernandez is scheduled for October 3, 2005, before Judge Marilyn Hall Patel in San Francisco. Mr. Hernandez faces a maximum statutory penalty of life imprisonment and a mandatory minimum penalty of ten years imprisonment for his methamphetamine offense, along with a fine of up to $4,000,000. The maximum statutory penalty for each of his three money-laundering convictions is twenty years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
The investigative agencies who worked on the case included the U.S. Customs Service (now known as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement), the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, the IRS, and the DEA. Dana R. Wagner and Christopher J. Steskal are the Assistant U.S. Attorneys who prosecuted the case.