News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Pitt gets 15 years for running meth operation in county
Feb 28, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer
A methamphetamine dealer from Hudson is to spend the next 15 years in prison and five years after that on probation.
The dealer's supplier, a Green River woman, has a 10-year sentence.
Federal District Court Judge Scott W. Skavdahl sentenced both defendants Wednesday in a Cheyenne courtroom.
The judge also ordered Timothy Pitt, the dealer, to forfeit $7,100 he made from selling meth and to pay a $600 special assessment. Maria de la luz Vargas, the supplier, is to pay $100.
The investigation and prosecution of Pitt and Vargas has benefited local residents, Fremont County Sheriff Skip Hornecker said.
"Our intelligence has given us the impression it's made a huge impact on the local drug trafficking," he said. "At least from our scuttlebutt and our intelligence -- not to say it's still not there -- but it's certainly had a huge impact."
Wyoming's Division of Criminal Investigation took the lead on the cases, but the Sheriff's Office and other local law enforcement agencies provided support, Hornecker said.
Pitt's sentence was agreed upon by both sides of the case earlier when they reached a plea agreement. Vargas's was the maximum allowed under a deal she worked out with prosecutors.
Both defendants pleaded guilty Dec. 9 as part of their agreements.
Assistant U.S. attorney Timothy Gist, of Lander, prosecuted both cases.
Pitt, who was 32 at the time of his arrest in May, pleaded guilty to four counts of distributing .5 kilograms to 1.5 kilograms of meth, one of conspiracy to distribute meth and one of using a firearm during his other crimes.
Vargas the same day pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver .5 kilograms to 1.5 kilograms of meth.
"Between January and may 2013, I conspired to possess with intent to deliver
methamphetamine," Pitt said at the December hearing, 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.
Pitt's charges came from a federal grand jury indictment, and penalties for them were up to 20 years in prison for the first four, 10 years to life in prison for the sixth, and an automatic seven added to any sentence for the fifth.
The penalty for Vargas's charge is 10 years to life in prison.
The Fremont County Attorney's Office originally filed state charges against Pitt, and the Sweetwater County Attorney's Office did the same for Vargas. County prosecutors dropped their cases in August after the U.S. Attorney filed a complaint against the two defendants.
Affidavits in his cases state Pitt led a ring of meth dealers and bought drugs from Vargas. By intercepting text messages and phones calls, law enforcement overheard Pitt ask the woman to bring him several ounces of the drugs at a time.
He routinely fell short in his payments to Vargas, leading him to use tricks, such as wrapping large bills around a roll of small ones, when he was short on cash.
Vargas, in turn, received her drugs from a Salt Lake City man who headed an organization transporting meth from the Mexican border across California and Utah to Rock Springs. From there, it went to Evanston and Green River. Vargas then transported it to Pitt at his Hudson residence, according to court documents.
The Pitt case was one of the larger local drug cases in recent years based on its impact to the flow of drugs into the county Hornecker said.
"There's been others that have recouped maybe more drugs on the initial arrest but this one, the tentacles from this operation were pretty widespread. It led to other counties and even into other countries," the sheriff said. "Anything we can do to impact the drug trafficking in the county is paramount in my eyes."
Six other people arrested with him in Fremont County over two days in May. Five of them pleaded guilty to possessing or delivering meth, all as a result of plea agreements, and most received probation.
One defendant, Anthony Hernandez, had his lone charge dropped after the case was not resolved in time to meet the deadline to hold a speedy trial for him.
The man law enforcement believe headed the organization transporting meth from Mexico across the Western U.S. and selling it to Vargas was also sentenced recently. A federal judge gave Cristian Alan Cruz-Avenda 27 years in prison on charges involving selling meth and money laundering.