CORPUS CHRISTI (KIII NEWS) - Five Corpus Christi residents who were part of a drug trafficking organization have been sentenced to federal prison for various convictions on drugs and firearms charges, according to U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
Their sentences ranged from 138-420 months in federal prison.
Longino Castillo, 27, and Isaiah Martinez, 20, both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Castillo was also convicted of possession of a machine gun conversion device.
Michael Molina, 25, Justin Ray Flores, 36, and Manuel Garcia, 31, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a synthetic cannabinoid. Molina further admitted to possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and felon in possession of a firearm.
All five are residents of Corpus Christi, and all five were sentenced to federal prison during a hearing Wednesday.
Castillo was sentenced to 420 months in prison, with 360 months for the methamphetamine conspiracy and 120 months for possessing a machine gun conversion device. The sentences will run concurrently. He will also face a 60-month sentence for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, which will run consecutive to the other terms.
Martinez was sentenced to a total of 240 months in prison, with 180 months for the methamphetamine conspiracy in addition to a consecutive 60 months for the firearms charge.
Molina received a 78-month sentence for the conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a synthetic cannabinoid, as well as a 60-month consecutive term for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, for a total of 138 months in prison.
Flores and Garcia received respective terms of 138 and 144 months in federal prison.
During Wednesday's hearing, the court heard testimony regarding how authorities handle new synthetic drugs, their effects and how the drugs affect public safety. They also discussed the large number of firearms discovered during their investigation into the case, including the unregistered machine gun conversion device, several homemade suppressors, explosive devices, ammunition and body armor.
When sentencing the five individuals, the judge said that referring to synthetic cannabinoids as "legal" or "synthetic marijuana" misleads the public about the real dangers of the drug.
The drug trafficking case stems from numerous search warrants that were served between May 2016-17 at several residences and hotels regarding the distribution of narcotics by a group known on social media as "Team GoHard." The investigation revealed that the group would frequently rent hotel rooms and move from place to place as a way to distribute the narcotics and evade law enforcement.
At each of the locations, law enforcement seized different types and quantities of controlled substances as well as multiple firearms. Laboratory analysis confirmed the presence of scheduled substances, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine base and marijuana. In addition, laboratory analysis confirmed the presence of 5F-MDMB-PINACA and FUB-AMB, which are controlled under the Controlled Substance Analog Act.
In custody since their arrests, each defendant will remain in custody and serve their sentences at a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be designated in the near future.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Corpus Christi Police Department conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Lance Watt is prosecuting the case.
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