POCATELLO — A man police found in possession of more than a pound of cocaine has been sent to prison.
Bruno Del Rosario Soto-Valenzuela, 38, pleaded guilty to a felony charge for trafficking cocaine after reaching a plea agreement with the Bannock County Prosecutor’s Office. In exchange, an additional felony for possession of methamphetamine, a misdemeanor for possession of marijuana and a second drug offense enhancement have been dismissed.
At a hearing Monday morning, District Judge Rick Carnaroli sentenced Soto-Valenzuela to a minimum of five years in prison — with an additional nine years indeterminate.
Soto-Valenzuela was arrested in November after he was stopped by Idaho State Police troopers for speeding on Interstate 15 near the Interstate 86 interchange. While searching his car, troopers found Soto-Valenzuela in possession of 562.3 grams — around 1.3 pounds — of cocaine, 9.7 grams of meth and 4.5 grams of marijuana. The troopers confiscated $1,069 cash during the arrest.
During Monday’s hearing, Soto-Valenzuela said he was traveling home from Arizona and was given a package to deliver once he was home. He said he did not know what was inside the package and that he was expecting to receive an address for the delivery once he got home.
Carnaroli had several questions regarding the story. “If I was to believe your story,” the judge concluded, he would have expected Soto-Valenzuela to ask about the contents of the package. Especially, Carnaroli said, due to the fact that Soto-Valenzuela had already been convicted of transporting marijuana in Arizona.
That incident happened several years ago. And, as public defender Scott Pearson described, Soto-Valenzuela was the passenger in the car and was completely unaware of the drugs.
Following the conviction in Arizona, Soto-Valenzuela was sentenced to probation and deported. He said he was barred from re-entry into the United State for five years.
Pearson said Soto-Valenzuela is not the face of the drug problem. Instead, he was a “pawn” in the trafficking scheme — “merely a mule,” Pearson said.
Asked for his sentencing recommendation, Pearson said, due to the nature of the crime he was obligated to recommend prison. He asked the judge for a set term of five years, with no indeterminate time.
Carnaroli decided against the recommendation, giving Soto-Valenzuela a prison sentence of five to 14 years. He was remanded into the custody of the Bannock County Sheriff’s Office for transfer to the Idaho Department of Corrections.
In addition to the prison sentence, Soto-Valenzuela was ordered to pay a $15,000 fine, $599.50 in court and prosecution fees and the $100 cost for felony DNA collection.