Two brothers, both illegal aliens from Mexico, will spend more than 10 years in federal prison for trafficking methamphetamine in Billings last year.
U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull on Tuesday sentenced Francisco Javier Gonzalez-Betancourt, 31, to 11 years and four months in prison and ordered his brother, Cenobio Gonzalez-Betancourt, 29, to spend 10 years and one month in prison. He also ordered them deported after they have completed their sentences.
A jury in February convicted the brothers, who lived in Bakersfield, Calif., and three co-defendants of drug trafficking offenses. The Gonzalez-Betancourt brothers each were found guilty of conspiracy to bring shipments of meth to Billings and with two counts of possessing meth with the intent to distribute.
Cebull held them responsible for 1,422 grams of the highly addictive drug, which is about 3.1 pounds. Because of the quantity of drugs, the minimum mandatory sentence under the federal guidelines was 10 years.
Cebull sentenced Francisco at about the mid-range of the guidelines, saying he played a major role in bringing drugs from California to Billings. He sentenced Cenobio near the low end because he was less culpable but still a participant. One of Cenobio's jobs was to cut the meth with other substances, he said. The guideline range was 120 months to 151 months.
Also awaiting sentencing are co-defendants Maria Duque-Torres, 27, who is Francisco's wife; Jose Guerra Maldonado, 31, of Honduras; and Pedro Carrasco, 24, of Billings.
Prosecutors said Maldonado, who lived in Billings, worked with the Gonzalez-Betancourt brothers to bring meth shipments to Billings starting in May 2002. The brothers drove the drugs to Montana in a Chevrolet Suburban purchased by Duque-Torres.
The U.S. Marshals Service seized the Suburban in a forfeiture. The vehicle is parked in front of the federal courthouse awaiting sale through bids.
State and federal investigators got tipped to the activity by a confidential informant who was arrested along with Carrasco in a Billings casino on drug charges in July 2002. The informant agreed to cooperate and was not indicted. On July 10, agents watching Maldonado followed him and the Suburban, driven by the Gonzalez-Betancourt brothers, to a motel. There, the agents arrested the three on charges of being illegal aliens. A search of the Suburban turned up more than 300 grams of meth.