A 30-year-old citizen of Mexico was sentenced Tuesday to serve the next 12 years in a federal prison after being arrested in Michigan and convicted of firearms and drug trafficking charges.
According to U.S. Attorney Donald A. Davis, Francisco Javier Rivera-Hidalgo was arrested earlier this year at his Wyoming, Mich., apartment where police found multiple firearms, approximately 330 pounds of marijuana, two kilograms of cocaine, more than $37,000 in cash and other drug-trafficking paraphernalia.
In July, Rivera-Hidalgo pleaded guilty and asked U.S. District Judge Janet T. Neff for leniency in his sentence. But according to the U.S. Department of Justice, Rivera-Hidalgo's request was denied after having illegally re-entered the U.S. at least 14 separate times in the past. In fact, Judge Neff exceeded a probation officer's recommendation that Rivera-Hidalgo serve just over 10 years in prison.
The convicted felon's defense attorney, nevertheless, claimed that his client's crimes were "completely out of character for him." Except for immigration issues, Rivera-Hidalgo, a married father of two, both of whom are U.S. citizens, had never been in trouble before, attorney David Kaczor said.
In addition, Kaczor claimed the massive quantities of drugs found in his client's apartment were not his, but that his client "stored large amounts of drugs for others, and was paid $20 for each pound of marijuana he stored, and $50 for each pound he sold."
It is believed Rivera-Hidalgo had ties to Mexican drug cartel operations, though he operated a long distance from the United States' southern border. “Although he has refused to discuss the involvement of others in this offense, one can only surmise that he is in fear of retaliation against his sister here and his family in Mexico,” Kaczor wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
The defendant, in a letter to the court, said he did not understand legal procedures, but “I do understand what would happen to my family if I cooperated with the police.”
The defendant's wife, Ana, described him as "a great father, hard worker and always responsible." Meanwhile, his defense attorney also claimed that his income as a trafficker was going to support family in the U.S. and in Mexico and that his client got into selling marijuana after he was laid off as a drywall finisher.