A Redwood City man has pleaded guilty in federal court in San Francisco to plotting to distribute more than 13 pounds of methamphetamine and has agreed to accept a sentence of at least 17 years and six months in prison. Franco Perez, 38, entered the plea before U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco on Thursday and will be sentenced by Breyer on Jan. 13. U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello said that Perez admitted during the plea that he helped coordinate the smuggling of more than 13 pounds of methamphetamine from Mexico into the United States inside the transmission of a pickup truck in November. Russoniello said the shipment was intercepted in Los Banos in Merced County by federal drug agents and the California Highway Patrol. He said Perez admitted during the plea that the shipment was intended for distribution in the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere in Northern California. Perez was one of nine people indicted on a variety of heroin and methamphetamine trafficking charges by a federal grand jury on Jan. 29 and arrested on Feb. 4 in a sweep that authorities called Operation Smack Down. Under federal law, the mandatory minimum sentence for the conspiracy conviction is 10 years and the maximum is life in prison. U.S. attorney’s office spokesman Joshua Eaton said prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed in the plea bargain to a recommended sentencing range with a minimum term of 17 years and six months. If the judge gives a sentence above or below the recommended range, either the prosecution or defense can set aside the plea and have a trial instead on all the charges originally filed against Perez. Those charges include methamphetamine and heroin sales and money laundering in addition to the conspiracy count.
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