SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. - A 62-year-old grandmother who prosecutors said ran drugs to support her bingo habit has been sentenced to three years in prison and a $150,000 fine.
Acting on a tip, state police stopped Leticia Villareal Garcia near Bisbee in southeast Arizona in February 2005 and found 214 pounds of marijuana stuffed into the trunk of her car.
Garcia has maintained her innocence, telling the judge at her sentencing Friday that she was unaware of the grass as she headed for a bingo game.
"I never, never had any knowledge of that car being loaded when I went to Tucson," the Bisbee resident told Cochise County Superior Court Judge Wallace Hoggatt.
Garcia testified at her trial in November that her son's godfather had borrowed her car the day before. Her lawyer, Robert Zohlmann, said she had been used as a "blind mule" to unknowingly haul drugs.
Garcia said she often played bingo, occasionally winning several thousand dollars at a sitting, although her only regular income was a $275 monthly welfare check she received for caring for a granddaughter.
"The underlying issue is that she's got a bingo problem, which explains why an otherwise nice person might get sucked into something like this," prosecutor Doyle Johnstun told the jury.
Garcia faced as much as 12 1/2 years in prison, but Johnstun asked for just four years, agreeing with her lawyer that her age and lack of a record called for the lesser sentence.