Dec 10, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff WriterA federal judge now must decide whether to accept the plea bargains, which would involve prison terms of 10 to 15 years for the two defendants.
CASPER -- Months of phone taps and half a dozen arrests climaxed in seven guilty pleas Monday in federal court.
Timothy Pitt, the Hudson man law enforcement says led a ring of methamphetamine dealers in Fremont County, and the Green River woman who supplied him, Maria de la Luz Vargas, made their admissions as part of plea agreements at the federal courthouse in Casper.
The deals with prosecutors would have Pitt serve 15 years in prison and Vargas up to 10. Pitt also would forfeit $7,082 in proceeds from selling drugs.
U.S. assistant attorney Timothy Gist said Pitt also would have to "continue to be truthful with the U.S. and other authorities" for the agreement to stay in place.
U.S. District Court Judge Scott W. Skavdahl will decide whether to accept the deals and the precise sentences to impose in hearings set for Feb. 26.
Neither defendant gave many details of the crimes when called to provide a factual basis for their guilty pleas.
"Between January and may 2013, I conspired to possess with intent to deliver
methamphetamine," Pitt said, repeating language from the charging documents in the case. "I possessed a firearm to protect myself while engaging in my offenses."
Pitt clarified that he conspired to deliver more than 500 grams of the drug and did all of this in the state of Wyoming. He also described how his codefendant was involved.
"Her role was to deliver," Pitt said.
He would give Vargas money, and she gave him meth, Pitt said. He offered not other details.
For her part, Vargas provided little more. During her hearing, she spoke through an interpreter.
"I saw myself in great need ... and I got involved in this," Vargas said. "I accepted this because I wanted to save my son."
Her son has cancer, she said, and she needed money to help him.
"I did work with this man for about three months, but he never paid me what he was supposed to be paying me," Vargas said, referring to Pitt.
She gave Pitt meth in exchange for money and did so "five, six, maybe seven times," Vargas said.
The events took place in Wyoming between January and May, she said.
A federal grand jury indicted Pitt, who was 32 at the time of his arrest, with four counts of distribution of meth, each alleging he did so on a different date: Jan. 11, Jan. 17, Feb. 14 and Feb. 22. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
Another count charges Pitt and Vargas, who was 46 at the time of her arrest, with conspiring to possess 500 grams or more of meth with the intent to distribute it between January and May 2013. Possible penalties for the crime include 10 years to life in prison and a $10 million fine.
Pitt's sixth charge was for using a firearm in relation to a drug crime. Its penalty is to add seven years to the sentence for the original crime.
The total minimum sentence for Pitt's charges is 17 years in federal prison.
If Skavdahl accepts the plea agreements, they would supersede all other possible penalties. Vargas's lawyer would be free to argue for a sentence of fewer than 10 years, and Gist could argue for any sentence up to that length.
Defense attorney Eric J. Palen said he would seek a lower sentence under the "safety valve" rule, which allows for sentences lower than the mandatory minimum for convicts with small criminal records, who did not use violence, who did not organize their crimes, and who provide the government with all the information they know about the criminal activity.
Neither defendant will receive a lower sentence for providing more information to the U.S. government about its investigations of other crimes, Gist said. He said Vargas had provided information that led the federal prosecutor to recommend a lower sentence than the one contemplated in the plea agreement. Gist did not elaborate on Pitt's situation.
Local law enforcement agencies arrested five people at the same time as Pitt and, in an affidavit, alleged they were involved in a drug ring he led. Three of those have resolved their cases through plea agreements with the Fremont County Attorney's office, and two defendants are still facing trial.
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