By Anita Nembhard
Free Lance Reporter
Three men are currently serving a three -year prison term after being found guilty of drug trafficking.
The men, Richard Smith, Kent Nunez, and Jason Phillips were found near the Benque border on March 16, 2011 in a maroon-coloured car with 17,233 grams (about 60 lbs) of cannabis, tucked away in a large plastic bag.
All three were found guilty of drug trafficking in the Belize City Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, June 3. Chief Magistrate, Ann- Marie Smith, who presided over the case, fined them and sentenced them to three years in prison. The vehicle in question was also confiscated.
During the trial, which originated in San Ignacio, PC Williams Castillo testified that on May 6, 2014, he saw two dark-skinned men leave Pugas’ farm and walk across to a maroon car which was parked on the highway.
He saw both men place a big, bulky bag into the trunk and get in the vehicle. Then a man who was seated in the driver’s seat drove off.
At that point Castillo intercepted the vehicle, ordered that the trunk be opened, then called for back up.
PC Pinelo responded to the call, and in his presence they opened the bag. Inside was a crocus sack which was tied with a green string. it contained a leafy substance suspected to be marijuana.
The three men were escorted to the police station and the vehicle was impounded.
Magistrate Smith reviewed their file in Belize City this Wednesday. Apart from a fine, she sentenced all three men to three years imprisonment.
Richard Smith got the stiffest fine as he is no stranger to the court. He has three previous convictions for possession of controlled drugs and faces two more drug trafficking charges.
He was ordered to pay $15,000 in fines plus $5.00 cost of court. In default, he will face another three years in prison.
Phillips, the second defendant, was fined $11,000. Like Smith, he also has a conviction for possession of a controlled drug.
Nunez received the lowest fine – $10,000.
During the trial, all three men gave sworn testimony denying knowledge of the cargo. They all claimed they did not know the bag was in the trunk.
Their attorney, Arthur Saldivar has informed the Chief Magistrate, Anne Marie Smith that he will appeal the conviction.
The impounded vehicle has been confiscated and turned over to the Government of Belize.