Local drug dealer gets eight years | AspenTimes.com

Local drug dealer gets eight years

John Colson

A Basalt man who pleaded guilty to dealing drugs over the course of a year and a half was sent to prison for eight years Monday.

Mariano Morales Tapia, 25, will remain in the Pitkin County Jail while awaiting an opening in the state prison system. He has spent 126 days in the jail since he was arrested in March, time that will be subtracted from his sentence.

According to statements by District Court Judge J.E. DeVilbiss, Tapia also is subject to a “hold” order by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, and is likely to be deported as soon as he finishes serving his sentence in prison.

Tapia pleaded guilty in June to one count of selling cocaine, and one count of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, both of which are felonies. He faced a possible sentence of up to 16 years in prison under state law.

Tapia and another man were arrested after a search by the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team (TRIDENT) of Tapia’s residence on Emma Road, near Basalt, in mid-March.

During the search, TRIDENT authorities, including police officers from Basalt and Glenwood Springs, seized one ounce of cocaine, a bag containing 1.06 pounds of marijuana, one burlap sack containing three baggies with a total of 2.48 pounds of marijuana, $1,150 in cash, one .22-caliber rifle, a small digital scale with “cocaine residue,” and miscellaneous drug paraphernalia, according to court documents.

According to arrest warrants filed by Glenwood Springs Police Officer Scott Templeton, Tapia “advised that he obtained the cocaine from a Hispanic male subject . who lives in California.” Templeton said Tapia “said he receives approximately a half-pound of cocaine . once every two weeks. … Tapia advised that he sells the cocaine to several local subjects.”

As part of the plea agreement, seven other felony counts that Tapia was facing were dismissed.

At his sentencing hearing Monday, it was said that Tapia told police sold a half-pound of coke every two weeks because he could find no other way to support his family, and that he was “just about to get out of the business” when he was busted.

The the probation department recommended that Tapia be sent to prison for four years, Wills told the judge: “I just don’t think that is enough. The court should recognize just how big a drug dealer Mariano was.” He recommended Tapia be sent to prison for six years.

“I think everybody should get a second chance,” Tapia told the judge.

Before pronouncing the sentence, DeVilbiss noted dryly, “There are lots of people in this valley who manage to support their families without dealing drugs.”

Tapia wept as the judge sentenced him to five years for the sale of cocaine, and three years for the marijuana charge, the two sentences to be served concurrently.

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