Saul Nuno Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Cour
Bill Mercer, United States Attorney for the District of Montana, announced today that during a federal court session in Billings on January 27, 2009, before Chief U.S. District Judge Richard F. Cebull, SAUL NUNO, a 31-year-old resident of Billings, pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute marijuana and possession with the intent to distribute marijuana. Sentencing is set for April 29, 2009. He is currently detained.
In an Offer of Proof filed by the United States, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
Through a confidential source (CS#1), agents learned that during the years 2003 and 2004, a source of supply (SOS#1) was transporting multi-hundred pound quantities of marijuana from California to Montana, to be delivered to NUNO and others. The SOS#1 was receiving drugs from Mexico that were smuggled through the port of entry in Tijuana. The marijuana was concealed in the undercarriage/gas tanks of vehicles, and the gas tanks were removed to withdraw the marijuana. The organization used SUV type vehicles, but also used a Toyota Camry with an electronic hidden compartment. During the period of the conspiracy, SOS#1 transported in excess of 1,300 pounds of marijuana to Billings. NUNO and another individual were two of the main recipients and distributors of these loads.
Numerous drivers were used to transport the drugs from California to Billings. The drivers stayed at local hotels in the Billings area. The SOS or the CS would go and pick up the driver(s), provide them with a car, and take the loaded vehicle and have it unloaded. The SOS used several different locations to unload the drugs. The drivers were paid $3,000 for transporting the drugs.
On occasion, the SOS brought the marijuana to the CS's house where they weighed it and broke it down into one pound packages. They hid the marijuana in the rafters of the garage, a hidden trap in the kitchen area, and also in the ceiling of the basement.
In November 2002, NUNO and another individual were at a residence in Billings removing a gas tank that contained marijuana from a vehicle, when the vehicle caught on fire. NUNO was able to remove the marijuana and hide it, but the Yellowstone County Sheriff Office (YCSO) and fire department responded. The load of marijuana, approximately 200 pounds, had been provided by SOS#1. NUNO was storing the marijuana at his house and a subsequent check with the YCSO revealed they reported the fire as a vehicle fire/structure fire of an accidental nature.
CS#1 was present on two occasions when two individuals and SOS#1 assisted with removal of the marijuana from a vehicle. The first time, in May 2004, SOS#1 made arrangements to store drugs at one of the individual's house, and the individual assisted with weighing and repackaging the marijuana. The second load arrived approximately three months later. Each of the loads consisted of approximately 200 pounds of marijuana. CS#1 would go and pick up the marijuana from the individual's house and deliver it to customers.
During the conspiracy, NUNO started buying marijuana from this individual, who was also getting marijuana from SOS#1.
In mid-2004, CS#1 and another individual drove to Las Vegas and picked up SOS#1 and approximately 100-200 pounds of marijuana. SOS#1 drove back in the loaded vehicle with the individual.
During this same time frame, SOS#1 transported approximately 5 kilograms of methamphetamine and drug proceeds to Billings. SOS#1 told CS#1 he was selling the methamphetamine to make up for the money and marijuana lost during a robbery at his residence in Billings in May 2004.
Agents learned that NUNO, the manager of a restaurant in Billings, had marijuana for sale, and SOS#1 had methamphetamine for sale.
On January 21, 2004, CS#2 stated he was in contact with NUNO on January 20, 2004, and learned NUNO had pound quantities of marijuana for sale at $800 per pound. NUNO told CS#2 he would bring the marijuana to the restaurant and CS#2 could pick up the marijuana. On January 21, 2004, at approximately 11:00 a.m., CS#2 placed a recorded telephone call to NUNO in an attempt to arrange the purchase of marijuana from NUNO.
On January 22, 2004, CS#2 placed a recorded telephone call to NUNO. NUNO was working at the restaurant and CS#2 agreed to meet him to purchase the marijuana. CS#2 and a law enforcement officer met with NUNO and purchased approximately 901.6 grams of marijuana from NUNO at the restaurant.
On March 3, 2004, agents learned that NUNO had approximately 26 pounds of marijuana at his home. Because the marijuana was old, NUNO was selling it for $600 a pound. NUNO also had "new" marijuana that he was selling for approximately $800 a pound. He also had very high quality marijuana that he referred to as "chronic" which was approximately $3,000 a pound.
On March 3, 2004, CS#2 spoke with NUNO about obtaining methamphetamine in addition to the marijuana. NUNO told CS#2 he would check on the availability of methamphetamine and agreed to bring the marijuana to the restaurant the following day.
On March 4, 2004, a law enforcement officer and CS#2 met with NUNO and purchased approximately 3.8 pounds of marijuana. NUNO introduced himself and stated he was expecting fresher marijuana in the future. The law enforcement officer asked NUNO if he would be able to set him up with "some of the white stuff," referring to methamphetamine. After they spoke, the law enforcement officer handed NUNO $2,400 and NUNO counted the money.
Law enforcement officers seized 130 pounds of marijuana in March of 2005 that was destined to NUNO. On January 3, 2008, a co-conspirator provided a detailed statement concerning the drug trafficking of NUNO and another individual. The co-defendant informed law enforcement officers that he was providing multi-hundred pound quantities of marijuana to NUNO in Montana.
The amount of marijuana directly attributable to NUNO is between 400 and 700 kilograms.
NUNO faces possible penalties of a mandatory minimum of 5 years in prison and could be sentenced to 40 years, a $2,000,000 fine and 4 years supervised release.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James E. Seykora prosecuted the case for the United States.
The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force.
A copy of the Offer of Proof can be obtained by contacting Sally Frank at (406) 247-4638.