Three drug ring defendants plead guilty

December 17, 2013 

Seven of the 11 Treasure Valley residents arrested last summer and accused of being part of a methamphetamine distribution ring have pleaded guilty to federal charges.

Michelle C. Ritch and Nearia W. "Nick" Pinnell, both of Nampa, and Scott V. Hernandez of Oakland, Calif., pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to distribute meth, during appearances before U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge.

That followed guilty pleas to the same charge last month by co-defendants Daniel E. Vaughan, Wendy D. Harrison and Darrell R. Zirschry of Nampa and Bibbi E. Woolsey of Boise.

Conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine carries a minimum 5-year sentence and up to 40 years.

Each was originally charged with a conspiracy charge to distribute more than 500 grams (1.1 pounds) of meth. That charge carries a prison term of 10 years to life.

Pinnell and Zirschry also pleaded guilty to weapons possession charges.

Four other defendants, Mexican nationals Hernan Gomez Gutierrez and Juan Mojica Barragan, Carlos E. Tovar of Nampa and Jeramie E. Mahler of Star, have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to distribute meth and other charges and are scheduled to go to trial Feb. 11.

Gomez is also charged with two counts each of distribution of meth and cocaine. Mojica is also charged with distribution of cocaine. Tovar also faces four counts of meth distribution, while Mahler is also charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking.

A federal grand jury in Boise indicted the 11 defendants in July and accused them of conspiring to deal more than a pound of methamphetamine.

The Treasure Valley Metro Violent Crimes Task Force and the Drug Enforcement Administration led the investigation. The task force is made up of federal, state and local agencies.

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