The seemingly normal August 2011, DHL shipment from Mexico to a Santa Ana apartment near the Orange County District Attorney's office didn't contain what a mailing declaration stated: gift basket.
During a relay stop at the delivery company's Ohio facility, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent inspected the package from Guadalajara and found more than four pounds of heroin.
A federal agent dressed in a DHL employee uniform made the delivery in Orange County to see who would end up with the narcotics: Mona Rodriguez, who quickly used her cell phone to contact another drug dealer, Alvaro Romero Barajas, for merchandise pickup.
In 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Philip S. Gutierrez sentenced Barajas to a term of 70 months in prison.
Rodriguez, 46, this week faced a potential 27-year sentence given her history of drug-related crimes and, though a low-level dealer, worked full-time selling heroin on the phone.
But the woman's lawyer argued that his client deserved some leniency because she grew up in a family of heroin abusers, including two siblings who died of overdoses.
Like Rodriguez (a.k.a. "Hortencia Rodriguez"), the father of her only child is a heroin addict.
The defense asked for a prison term of 180 months, the punishment advanced by a federal prosecutor.
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But Gutierrez decided the appropriate term is 60 months less or 10 years plus supervised probation for five years after her release from custody.
Rodriguez now resides inside the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles.