Convicted drug mule Margarito Sanchez, 33, was sentenced to eight years in prison by Madison County Common Pleas Court Judge Eamon Costello on Thursday morning.
Sanchez, an undocumented Mexican national, had earlier pleaded guilty to a single amended felony count of drug possession involving 2.2 pounds of crystal meth. An additional count involving about 2 pounds of cocaine was dismissed as part of a plea bargain.
Sanchez was initially indicted on first-degree felony charges arising from a traffic stop along Interstate 70 on June 10.
Along with the contraband, $2,895 in cash was retrieved from the 2004 F150 pickup driven by Sanchez.
While the sequence isn’t exactly clear, it appears Sanchez embarked from Springfield, Ohio, and traveled to Texas, where he picked up the narcotics to be transported — for which he acted as a “mule.” He also picked up a female passenger and fellow undocumented Mexican national, Sylvia Franco Rodriguez, 26, and her 4-year-old son.
From Texas, the group continued toward Columbus. They were pulled over by a Madison County Sheriff deputy on Interstate 70 near the State Route 142 interchange. A drug dog was called in and alerted officers to the presence of narcotics hidden in an amplifier on the floorboard. All three were taken into custody.
The Madison County Prosecutor later dropped all charges against Rodriguez. She was released from local custody to U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement. Her 4-year-old son, who was born in Texas and is a U.S. citizen, remains in the care of Madison County Children’s Services.
According to defense attorney Edward Yim, Sanchez has no serious prior involvement with the U.S. legal system. Any possible record from Mexico was not available for review.
Sanchez claimed in court that he was coerced by two unidentified Mexican individuals threatening deadly harm to his father and other relatives in Mexico if he did not comply with their direction to transport drugs. This was purportedly relayed to him by his father in Mexico via cell phone.
Sanchez’s wife and five children were present to view the proceedings.
Speaking through an interpreter, Sanchez said, “My children have been born here. I like this country very much. I never thought to hurt this country — I only thought about helping my dad. I please ask you to consider that I was thinking about my family. Thank you.”
Judge Costello admitted that if what Sanchez stated was true, it was quite a dilemma to be in — but there was no way of knowing the veracity of that statement.
Beyond deciding the truthfulness of the defendant’s claim, Judge Costello had also to consider the impact of Sanchez’s illegal actions on the people of Ohio.
“I don’t dispute what you are saying — there’s no way to know if it is true or untrue,” Costello said. “On the other hand, the drugs involved with this case, I can with certainty say what the impact would have been on Columbus, Ohio. You faced a difficult decision — but your decision to protect your father, is also a decision that will ruin many, many lives.”
Costello also determined that the offense was more serious because the defendant committed the offense for hire as part of an organized criminal activity. Supporting this, Costello brought up the unexplained $2,895 in cash that was discovered on June 10.
“This at least suggests to the court that while you may indeed have been concerned about your father’s safety, there may also have been a monetary payoff,” he said.
Along with a prison sentence of a mandatory eight years, Sanchez received five years of post release control, a four-year suspension of his operator’s license, and incurred $15,000 in fines.
The $2,895 in cash, as well as the 2004 Ford F150 were forfeited to the state.
Reach Andrew Garrett at 740-852-1616, ext. 1616.