Late one December night in 2009, three individuals riding in a black 1997 BMW 528i on I-15 in San Bernardino County believed a CHP officer stopped them merely for weaving out of a lane, but in truth they'd been under surveillance for hours by a team of undercover FBI agents.
Driver Lindberg Villalobos, his girlfriend Daisy Diana Villegas and passenger Raul Delgado Magana acted nervously during the stop, told conflicting stories about where they were going--was it Las Vegas or Tennessee?--and consented to a search of the vehicle.
What everybody knew was that fake compartments had been built into the BMW at a Santa Ana body shop tied to drug running and that methamphetamine, more than 13 pounds it turned out, was hidden inside for transportation and distribution to Florida, according to court records.
Only Villalobos, Villegas and Magana--who'd been relocated and left alone in a CHP vehicle--didn't know that the cops knew of the drugs and that an FBI agent had asked a state police officer to find a reason to detain their vehicle in a way that other conspirators back in Santa Ana wouldn't be prematurely tipped to the federal investigation.
The trio was also unaware that a recording device inside the cop car had been activated and capture their fright (and admissions to knowing about the drugs) when a drug sniffing dog approached their BMW and signaled at the location of the illegal narcotics.
This week inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse, Bakersfield's Magana (whose real name is Rogelio Herrera Godoy) learned his punishment in the scheme.
The U.S. Probation office calculated a guideline sentence of at least 120 months in prison, but Magana got a relatively sweet deal.
Federal prosecutor George W. Staples sealed from public inspection his rationale for seeking a large deviation from guidelines and pushed for a 40-month term, a punishment eagerly accepted by the defendant.
U.S. District Court Judge Andrew J. Guilford okayed the deal and is requiring Magana, 38, to undergo supervised probation of five years upon his release from prison.
He's presently housed in a federal facility in Long Beach.
This FBI investigation into methamphetamine and heroin networks plus Staples' prosecution work also resulted in the following punishments:
~Villalobos (a.k.a Marciel Cardenas Villalobos--the driver), 63 months;
~Villegas (the girlfriend), 24 months;
~Pedro Villalobos, 120 months;
~Gustavo Navarro Andrade, 30 months;
~Nardo Garcia Verdeces, 30 months;
~Jorge Rios-Nanez, 70 months;
~Margarita Aquino, 6 months.
According to court records, other individuals charged in the case but whose status remains unresolved include: Antonio Gurrero Cabrera, Edwardo Luna and Amanda Daughtrey.