Epifanio Zuniga 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 Missoula on April 7, 2009, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch, EPIFANIO ZUNIGA, a 29-year-old resident of Othello, Washington, pled guilty to possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine. Sentencing is set for July 10, 2009. He is currently released on special conditions.
In an Offer of Proof filed by the United States, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
On November 24, 2008, agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) purchased three ounces of methamphetamine and one pound of marijuana from ZUNIGA. DCI agents had previously purchased one pound of marijuana from ZUNIGA on two prior occasions in Arlee.
On the same day, ZUNIGA had sent a text message to the agents to negotiate the purchase of the methamphetamine and marijuana. They met ZUNIGA in the parking lot of a restaurant in Arlee. ZUNIGA got into the officers' car and handed one of the agents a heat-sealed bag containing the pound of marijuana. ZUNIGA also gave the agent three ounces of meth. The agents and ZUNIGA then negotiated a price for the drugs - $2,000 per ounce for the methamphetamine and $2,800 for the marijuana - and the agents exited their vehicle to get the money for ZUNIGA. Other officers then placed ZUNIGA under arrest.
ZUNIGA faces possible penalties of a mandatory minimum 5 years in prison and could be sentenced to life, a $2,000,000 fine and 4 years supervised release.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Racicot prosecuted the case for the United States.
The investigation was a cooperative effort between the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Northwest Montana Drug Task Force, and the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation.
A copy of the Offer of Proof can be obtained by contacting Sally Frank at (406) 247-4638.