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Plea deal for lead defendant in drug sweep

Feb 26, 2012 - Martin Reed, Staff Writer

A Riverton restaurant owner will plead guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to deliver cocaine under an agreement that requires him to provide information in other drug prosecutions.

Gerardo H. Rico-Holguin signed the plea agreement on Feb. 14 that calls for a potential sentence of anywhere between probation and a maximum of five years in prison.

The plea deal requires him to remain in Fremont County for two years so that he can be available for trials, helping state and federal prosecutors and investigators and providing interviews.

Rico-Holguin, who owns Austin's Steakhouse in Riverton, must be "available to testify truthfully at any and all hearings or trials related to any co-defendants in this matter or any other trials or hearings to which he has knowledge," according to the agreement.

Some dismissed

Other charges against him will be dismissed including delivery of marijuana, delivery of cocaine, delivery of methamphetamine and conspiracy to deliver cocaine.

All of his charges carry a combined maximum punishment of 80 years in prison and $95,000 in fines. Felony conspiracy to deliver cocaine carries a maximum punishment of 20 years and a $25,000 fine.

He will be sentenced after all related co-defendant cases reach their resolutions, according to the plea agreement.

A change-of-plea hearing in Lander's Ninth District Court was not immediately scheduled in his case.

He remains out of jail after Hector and Angelina Rico posted a $50,000 cash bond on Jan. 9, according to District Court records.

Other pleas

Rico-Holguin's expected guilty plea is arriving as others plead guilty in the massive indictment that swept Fremont County last December dubbed "Operation Angry Sun."

Mario Legarda plans to plead guilty to felony delivery of cocaine under an agreement with a potential prison sentence of three to six years maximum, according to his plea agreement filed Feb. 14.

Betsy Rocina Walter, of Riverton, will plead guilty to felony conspiracy to deliver cocaine with a suspended prison sentence of 30 to 60 months and three years of supervised probation.

Erik Jovanny Ochoa-Pena was the first defendant out of the 35 indicted in the alleged drug sweep to plead guilty to charges against him.

The Lander man appeared for his Feb. 9 arraignment and pleaded guilty to felony charges of delivery of methamphetamine and conspiracy to deliver cocaine under an agreement with the prosecution.

Although each of the charges carry maximum punishments of 20 years in prison, his agreement calls for a maximum sentence of six years.

Flanked by his defense attorney Elisabeth Trefonas, of Jackson, and a Spanish-speaking translator, Ochoa-Pena told the court he was not a U.S. citizen, prompting Young to inform him he could face deportation and other consequences for a felony conviction.

'Eight ball'

In Rico-Holguin's case, the charge of conspiracy to deliver cocaine alleges a confidential police informant met with him outside of Austin's Steakhouse on Aug, 8.

He allegedly told the informant he could sell an eighth-ounce of cocaine, known as an eight ball, for $200 but he did not have a full ounce, according to court documents.

Rico-Holguin told the confidential informant he needed to "get ahold of the guy," referring to Ochoa-Pena, and that he would charge $1,100 for 1 ounce of cocaine, according to court documents.

Rico-Holguin talked to the informant about how many eight-balls are in an ounce and how to "cut it," which means using a substance added to cocaine to expand the amount of product and make more money, according to charging documents.

During a phone call on Aug. 9 to inquire about cocaine availability, Ochoa-Pena told Rico-Holguin he did not have any but he planned to travel to Gillette to obtain some in a few days, according to court documents.

Another dismissal have surfaced in the alleged vast drug trafficking case in Fremont County. The first defendant in the prosecution effort pleaded guilty to charges in the case last week.

Deputy county attorney Patrick LeBrun requested the indictment dismissal in Cheyenne Cassidy Morland's case in documents filed Feb. 8 in Lander's 9th District Court

LeBrun dated his dismissal request for the Riverton woman on Feb. 2, and Sublette County District Judge Marvin L. Tyler signed the order Feb. 7.

"Further investigation by Patrick LeBrun ... led him to affirmative evidence with which he concluded that there was insufficient grounds to prosecute Cheyenne Morland," said Fremont County attorney Brian Varn.

Her dismissal follows a similar action filed in court Jan. 24 in the case of Tina Jean Jenkins, of Arapahoe.

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