Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bellevue man admits to federal drug charge

Defendant arrested in March raid on Bellevue home


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Esteban Villegas-Gamez

    A 39-year-old Mexican national who had been living in Bellevue pleaded guilty Monday to a federal charge of distribution of methamphetamine, a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.
    The guilty plea by Esteban Villegas-Gamez, who was arrested by agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives at a raid on his home on Oak Street in Bellevue on March 20, was announced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boise.
    The early morning raid by ATF and Blaine County Sheriff’s Office special weapons assault teams received extensive public notice because distractive devices, explosives that are loud and emit bright light, were used in the arrest.
    Federal prosecutor Christopher Atwood, a special assistant to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said in an interview Monday that Villegas-Gamez remained in federal custody in Boise, awaiting sentencing on Aug. 11 in federal court.
    Atwood said Villegas-Gamez entered into a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, wherein he pleaded guilty to a single count of distribution of methamphetamine. In exchange for his guilty plea, Atwood said six other counts of distribution of methamphetamine and three counts of illegal possession of a firearm were dismissed.
    Atwood explained that even though Villegas-Gamez only admitted to one crime, that the others that were charged against him can be taken into consideration in sentencing through the federal court rule of “relevant conduct.”
    “That means the court looks at all of the conduct, even the counts that were dismissed,” Atwood said.
    He noted that in the plea agreement Villegas-Gamez confessed to selling methamphetamine and firearms on numerous occasions to a police confidential informant.
    The U.S. Attorney’s Office reported in a news release that the case against Villegas-Gamez is being prosecuted by a special assistant to the U.S. attorney hired by the Treasure Valley Partnership and the state of Idaho to address gang crimes in the state.
    The case against Villegas-Gamez was investigated by ATF and the Blaine County Narcotics Enforcement Team. Assisting were U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Idaho State Police.
Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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