By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A lack of criminal history and for sentencing guidelines for possessing fentanyl were the two main factors behind a Washington man’s relatively light prison sentence for carrying $150 million in fentanyl, his Laramie defense attorney told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.
Diego Aguilar-Valdovinos was sentenced late last month to just over six years in prison for possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, with around three years of supervised release to follow. He could have been sentenced to a maximum of life in prison and a fine of up to $10 million.
His defense attorney, Tom Fleener, told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that federal sentencing guidelines for fentanyl, coupled with Aguilar-Valdovinos’ lack of criminal history, led to a lower sentence than his client could have faced.
“The court also took into consideration my client’s background, since his parents were deported when he was a child,” Fleener said. “He’s a U.S. citizen, but they were taken away and he bounced around some foster homes before his grandmother took him in and raised him.”
Fleener added that his client was not aware that he was hauling fentanyl last summer when he arrested just outside of Cheyenne with the drugs.
“There is no evidence to suggest he was aware of it, either,” the attorney said. “But frankly, he received a sentence of 65 months because that’s what the sentencing guidelines call for.”
Aguilar-Valdovinos was arrested last July when a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper stopped him for speeding east of Cheyenne on Interstate 80.
The trooper became suspicious of Aguilar-Valdovinos, who was driving a 2021 Hyundai Kona, when the man provided inconsistent and implausible travel plans.
The trooper detained the driver and deployed a drug-sniffing dog around the exterior of the car. The dog indicated it smelled drugs inside the vehicle.
A search of the car revealed approximately 24 pounds of suspected fentanyl, a highly potent opioid, inside the vehicle, according to court records.
Aguilar-Valdovinos was arrested and charged with felony transportation, distribution and possession of narcotics at the time.
According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the average sentence for fentanyl trafficking offenders was 75 months as of 2018. More than half of the offenders, 55%, were sentenced under federal guidelines.
Sentences were usually increased when the offender was in possession of a weapon or for having demonstrated a leadership role in trafficking operations.