In the Transporter movie series, actor Jason Statham plays a highly-skilled, BMW-driving, special delivery man named Frank Martin, who lives by three rules: "Never change the deal," "No names," and "Never open the package."
Fausto Villa Perez (a.k.a. "Seal K") was a real-life transporter, who thought if he didn't look inside the package, then he couldn't be held responsible for its contents.
Alas, Frank Martin can get away with making illegal deliveries in films, but Perez discovered that in the real world he wouldn't necessarily enjoy fictional Hollywood protection.
In July 2007, Perez, a self-described "God fearing man" and veteran school bus driver, was distraught over his wife leaving him when he agreed to drive someone else's vehicle from a Perris Denny's parking lot to another parking lot, leave the vehicle alone for a period of time and then drive it back to Denny's.
Perez thought it was best not to ask why he'd been paid to do the strange task and could honestly say he didn't know what had been placed inside the vehicle between sites: approximately 35 kilograms of cocaine.
This was the take of Assistant United States Attorney Terri K. Flynn: "[Perez] was aware at this time there was a high probability that drugs were in the defendant's vehicle and defendant deliberately avoided learning the truth."
(Later--in Dec. 2012, Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Flynn to an open slot as an Orange County Superior Court judge; Assistant United States Attorney Daniel H. Ahn is now prosecuting the case.)
Perez's taxpayer-funded defense lawyer described the situation this way: "He put his head in the sand and ignored the high probability that there were narcotics in the vehicle that he delivered to the informant in the case."
What the defendant also didn't know was that he'd been lured into a major, international cocaine and ecstasy pill distribution network operating in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties or that the operation was the target of undercover FBI agents.
According to federal agents, the network imported 5,000 MDMA (ecstasy) pills a week into the United States from Canada and supplied cocaine to drug dealers in Canada. They also sold large quantities of methamphetamine.
The network's degree of sophistication is indicated by their use of a technical expert at Data Locking (a.k.a. BeStealth), who supplied the drug dealers encrypted Blackberry cell phones to avoid law enforcement detection, according to a grand jury indictment.
Unbeknownst to the dealers--who constantly fretted about law enforcement detection, undercover FBI agents used confidential informants buried deep in the underworld, wiretaps and physical surveillance to closely monitor their activities.
Given that Perez played a minor role in the conspiracy, his defense lawyer asked U.S. District Court Judge Andrew J. Guilford to render only a punishment of probation.
But this month inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse, Guilford decided the appropriate punishment for Perez is 15 months in prison.
The defendant, who was born in 1958, must surrender to U.S. marshals to begin his incarceration term by noon on Sept. 27.
Previously sentenced defendants in the FBI case include:
--37-year-old Jerry Fanyuan Lin, 121 months at Lompoc Federal Correctional Institution;
--35-year-old Jason Ming Wei, 63 months (released from custody);
--33-year-old Jose G. Garibay, 120 months at Lompoc;
--40-year-old Jagmohan S. Dhillon, 51 months (released);
--Nathaneal Garrard Lineham, 57 months (prison records don't reflect that he's been incarcerated);
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--44-year-old Michelle Enck, 27 months (released).