By Keith Gushard
A Venango man has been sentenced to jail and house arrest for his role 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.
Silas Mark Deets, 61, of 21658 Cussewago St., PO Box 180, Venango, was one of nine people charged last June by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General in a case that office dubbed “Operation Texas Twins” for the twin brothers from Texas who ran the marijuana smuggling operation.
Deets is the fifth person involved in the case to enter a guilty plea in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas and be sentenced.
Deets was sentenced this week by Judge Mark Stevens to a total of 36 months intermediate punishment followed by 12 months probation for pleading guilty to one count of criminal conspiracy.
Stevens ordered the first four months of Deets’ 36-month intermediate punishment sentence be served in the Crawford County jail followed by three months of house arrest/electronic monitoring. Deets also was ordered to pay a $500 fine plus court costs.
Deets initially was charged last July by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General with one count of criminal conspiracy, an ungraded felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine and one count of criminal use of a communications facility, a third-degree felony punishable by up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine. The communications charge against Deets was dropped as part of a plea bargain with the Office of Attorney General.
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.
The masterminds of the operation, twin brothers Miguel Rodriguez, 29, of Corpus Christi and Marcelino Rodriguez, 29, of Eddy, were sentenced in December by county court to multiple years in state prison while two Texas women were sentenced in November by county court to time in county jail for their parts in the case.
Miguel Rodriguez received four to eight years 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.
Authorities said 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.
Laura Rodriguez, 30, of Chilton, Texas, who is a sister to the Rodriguez brothers, and Pamela Barrientos, 25, of Eddy, Texas, 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.
The remaining suspects in the case are scheduled to go on trial in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas in March.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.