A drug “kingpin” sentenced to a lifetime in prison in a massive meth distribution scheme will be back in the District Court of Guam later this year to fight his sentence.
Francisco Arias and his major partner, Eder Cortez-Zelaya, were the two main organizers in the scheme that used the U.S. mail system between 2010 to 2014 to send packages containing meth to Guam. Their 15 co-defendants sold the drugs and then sent the profits to Arias.
The case went before Magistrate Judge Joaquin Manibusan Jr. on Friday. Arias, who is incarcerated at a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility stateside, was represented by attorney John Terlaje.
Arias received a life sentence in April 2017. He was indicted in 2014 on charges of conspiracy to distribute meth, conspiracy to commit money laundering and unlawful use of the mail to facilitate the meth distribution.
He appealed his case and won.
Arias challenged the sufficiency of the evidence at trial to convict him of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The government conceded the evidence was insufficient because it failed to prove the money came from drug proceeds, according to a memorandum filed last month with U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Arias was acquitted of the charge.
He also contends the conspiracy to distribute meth charge should be reversed because the government proved multiple conspiracies, rather than the single conspiracy charged. The government admitted to the error but argued a reversal is not warranted. The government also contends his substantial rights were not affected because a jury inevitably would have convicted him of the crime.
Arias argued his co-defendant successfully had the same charge reversed.
The 9th Circuit vacated the conspiracy to distribute meth charge and issued a mandate to certify its ruling.
He will be retried for the drug charge in federal court.
The court also ordered that Arias be transferred from the Bureau of Prisons to Guam.
His trial has been scheduled for Nov. 4 before Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood.