By Keith Gushard
The final three suspects in a Crawford County marijuana smuggling operation that involved the transportation and distribution of as much as 20 pounds of marijuana a month into northwestern Pennsylvania have been sentenced in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas.
Two of the three sentenced in county court were given state prison terms by President Judge Anthony J. Vardaro while the third was sentenced to time at the Crawford County jail.
Robert K. Conaway, 30, of Meadville was sentenced by Vardaro to three to five years in state prison with 112 days credit plus ordered to pay a fine of $15,000 and court costs. Conaway pleaded guilty in May manufacture, delivery or possession of a controlled substance.
Adam Wood, 25, of Venango, was sentenced by Vardaro to 12 to 24 months in state prison with 385 days credit plus pay a fine of $250 and court costs. Wood pleaded guilty in May manufacture, delivery or possession of a controlled substance.
Elizabeth Bevilheimer, 25, of Meadville was sentenced by Vardaro to serve five to 12 months in county jail with 38 days credit plus pay a fine of $200 and court costs. Bevilheimer pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy.
They were among nine people charged in connection with the case last summer by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General.
The smuggling ring, dubbed “Operation Texas Twins” by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General for the twin brothers from Texas who ran the marijuana smuggling operation, was broken up in June 2012.
The masterminds of the operation, twin brothers Miguel Rodriguez, 29, of Corpus Christi, Texas, and Marcelino Rodriguez, 29, of Eddy, Texas, were sentenced in December 2012 to multiple years in state prison. Two women, Laura Rodriguez, 30, of Chilton, Texas, a sister of the brothers, and Pamela Barrientos, 25, also of Eddy, Texas, were sentenced in November 2012 to time in county jail for their roles. Venango resident Silas Deets, 61, was sentenced in February of this year for his role in the case while. Meadville resident Jeramie J. Ebbert, 26, was sentenced in June.
Miguel Rodriguez is serving four to eight years in jail for possession of marijuana with intent to deliver and criminal use of a communication device while Marcelino Rodriguez got three to five years for the same charges. Each man also was ordered to pay $2,000 in fines and court costs.
Miguel Rodriguez operated from Texas, speaking with his brother Marcelino and others by telephone to arrange drug shipments into northwest Pennsylvania and then having money from the sales transferred back to Texas, according to authorities.
Laura Rodriguez and Barrientos each were sentenced to six to 24 months less one day in the Crawford County jail for conspiracy to be followed by 12 months probation plus a $250 fine and court costs.
Laura Rodriguez assisted in the transfer of drug funds while Barrientos acted as a distributor of funds for the organization, according to authorities. Barrientos received thousands of dollars in wire transfers and then spoke by phone with Marcelino Rodriguez about how much money different participants should be making from the drug transactions, according to authorities.
Deets was sentenced to a total of 36 months intermediate punishment with the first three months in county jail followed by three months house arrest/electronic monitoring for pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy. He also was ordered to serve 12 months probation and pay a $500 fine.
Authorities said Deets was paid to receive shipments of marijuana from Texas. One of the deliveries to Deets, containing approximately 4.5 kilos of marijuana, was intercepted by U.S. postal inspectors. Deets was paid with cash and drugs to pick up the packages, according to authorities.
Ebbert was sentenced June 21 to 11 1/2 months to 24 months less one day with 23 days credit followed by three years of probation for pleading guilty to a charge of criminal conspiracy. Ebbert was a recipient of marijuana shipments from Texas and assisted with the sale of drugs to street-level buyers, according to authorities.
Authorities said Wood assisted in the distribution of marijuana, including the retrieval of drugs and cash from a vehicle that had been left in the parking lot of a motel in Meadville when Conaway and Marcelino Rodriguez were arrested in 2010.
In phone calls recorded at the Crawford County jail, Conaway, Rodriguez and Wood allegedly discussed the status of drug sales, including the fact Wood had six pounds of marijuana remaining and that Miguel Rodriguez still was owed $4,000. They also allegedly reviewed the correct prices that should be charged for different quantities of the drug.
Bevilheimer, who was Wood’s girlfriend, assisted in the recovery of the car that Conaway and Marcelino Rodriguez were driving when they were arrested in August 2010, according to authorities. Authorities said Bevilheimer also was involved in at least eight wire transfers of money to Texas, totaling more than $15,000, and was overheard in recorded prison phone calls complaining that she was not getting enough money for the work she was performing.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.