One of the last of 22 defendants in a methamphetamine trafficking ring broken up by federal authorities in 2017 was sentenced Tuesday to federal prison for her part in the conspiracy.
Heather Dawn Fuentes, 36, was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. to spend the next six years in prison and afterward, four years on supervised release.
Fuentes was indicted by a federal grand jury Nov. 2, 2017, as part of a conspiracy headed by Javier Colin-Flores, who authorities said was responsible for importing large quantities of methamphetamine into Central Arkansas.
Colin-Flores and another co-defendant, Randolf Luis Aviles, according to a federal complaint, had stepped into a vacuum created when federal authorities dismantled a drug trafficking ring headed by Irene Barrera and Estanilao Roman Cornego in early 2017.
Citing Fuentes' health, her attorney, Christian Alexander of Little Rock, asked Marshall to consider a minimum sentence to enable Fuentes to get out of prison and deal with her health issues and that he recommend she be sent to a federal prison with medical facilities designed to provide the level of care she would need.
"She has congestive heart failure and a dissected aorta. She has numerous health problems," Alexander said. "In previous years we've had issues with her even coming to court, with her having to go to the hospital as soon as she leaves court."
Alexander said that years of drug abuse had taken a heavy toll on his client's health.
"We didn't even know if she would be here for her sentencing," he said.
When she pleaded guilty on Jan. 21 before Marshall, Fuentes told the judge that she lived with Colin-Flores and sold methamphetamine for him, which Bryant confirmed at Tuesday's sentencing hearing.
"I think we've seen it with quite a few of the female defendants in this case, they were all in a relationship with Mr. Colin-Flores," Bryant said. "Mr. Colin-Flores used them essentially as intermediaries or mules to distribute drugs for him."
Then Bryant suggested that the government would not oppose a downward variance in Fuentes' sentence.
"I think 72 to 84 months is the appropriate place to land with Ms. Fuentes," she said.
When asked if she wished to speak on her own behalf, Fuentes surprised Marshall by requesting that she be allowed to remain in custody at the Pulaski County jail until mid-May to allow her to complete a rehabilitation program she had enrolled in.
"I'd really like if you'd let me graduate before I move out of here," she said. "I've never been able to go to a rehab or anything like that, and I'm not a bad person or a criminal, I'm just really a drug addict, and I think it's helping me so if I could just stay here until I graduate. That's all I ask."
"I don't know that I've ever had a request for someone to stay in a county facility for a day longer than they have to," Marshall said. "I commend your commitment to finishing that program."