Last Modified: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 9:20 PM
One of 19 Operation Havana Speed defendants was sentenced Wednesday in state district court.
Jace Allen Berwick, 39, was sentenced to an eight-year suspended prison term and four years’ supervised probation. He also received three months in the parish jail, with credit for time served, and a $500 fine.
He pleaded guilty Oct. 2 to five counts of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. He originally faced eight distribution counts as well as weapons charges.
Berwick was arrested after what authorities have said was a 1 1/2-year investigation into a meth-distribution ring in the Vinton and Starks areas. The group reportedly smuggled high-quality methamphetamine into the area.
Judge Clayton Davis said that when he saw both drugs and weapons in the charges against Berwick, it sent up “about 250 red flags.”
“You’re getting a heck of a break,” Davis told Berwick. But he reminded the defendant that if he doesn’t comply, he has years hanging over his head.
Three of the 19 defendants have pleaded guilty.
Phyllis Marie Shelton, 53, pleaded guilty Nov. 6 to methamphetamine possession, attempted distribution and conspiracy to distribute. She faces up to five years in prison on the possession charge and up to 15 years and a $25,000 fine on the other two charges.
Jessica Bogard, 36, pleaded guilty Nov. 4 to methamphetamine possession. She faces up to five years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine.
Lazaro Perez Cribeiro was given a polygraph test on Oct. 4, according to court records. He was asked three questions, the document said:
• “Have you ever trafficked illegal narcotics across U.S. or national borders?”
•“Were you a ringleader of a drug-dealing organization in Vinton?”
•“Have you ever been a member of the Mexican mafia or any other cartel?”
The polygrapher, Casey Fowler, said it was his opinion that Cribeiro was truthful when he answered “no” to all three questions, the document said.
Authorities allege Cribeiro, Mario Barrazacorral and Sergio Reyes Castillo were the leaders of the group.