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California woman gets 21-month sentence for involvement in steroid trafficking case

by Dale Ellis | February 9, 2023 at 3:28 a.m.
The Richard Sheppard Arnold Federal Courthouse in Little Rock is shown in this Jan. 16, 2021, file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Dale Ellis)

A California woman found guilty last year of being part of a steroid trafficking ring was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison Wednesday after a judge rejected her attorney's plea for probation but agreed to a 12-month downward variance from the low-end sentencing guideline range.

Sarah Chezarae Goforth, 34, of Santa Barbara, Calif., was found guilty by a jury last August after a two-day trial.

Goforth was one of 14 people in Arkansas, California and West Virginia indicted by a federal grand jury in Little Rock of involvement in a Central Arkansas-based conspiracy to distribute steroids that were shipped to Arkansas from both coasts, then processed, packaged and shipped out to buyers around the country.

The conspiracy came to light when the DEA Little Rock office received information that Joseph Petersen of North Little Rock was receiving and re-shipping anabolic steroids, which are classified as a Schedule III controlled substance, with a moderate to low potential for abuse and require a prescription to be legally obtained.

Investigators discovered that Petersen was working with a Little Rock man, Michael Glen Davis, as well as six co-defendants located in West Virginia and four in California.

Two other defendants, Michael Reed "Purple Panda" Jordan and his wife, known only as "Vera" or "Vanna," have been fugitives since December 2020, according to court documents. Both are believed to currently be living in Shenzen, China, and are beyond the reach of U.S. authorities.

Their cases were severed from the rest just before Goforth went to trial in August 2022.

Of all the defendants, Goforth was the only one who elected to go to trial.

All of the remaining 11 defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy and to date, seven have been sentenced to serve three years' probation and to perform 120 hours of community service.

Petersen is awaiting sentencing, as are Gutierrez and two West Virginia men, Austin Randy Stone and Joshua Thrush.

Stone, who ran a business called Misriah Labs, had arranged for Thrush to receive testosterone products from Petersen for re-shipment.

During the trial, witnesses testified that Goforth was brought into the conspiracy to take over for her former boyfriend and co-defendant, Allen Gutierrez of Santa Barbara, after he began using methamphetamine.

Goforth, along with the other California defendants, was responsible for re-shipping steroid products to online customers for Petersen.

Goforth, who has been in federal custody since her conviction, was joined by her attorney, Jonathan Lane of Little Rock, who asked U.S. District Judge Brian Miller to sentence Goforth to a term of probation or time served for the five months she has been in federal custody.

Lane argued that sending her to prison would create a sentencing disparity with the other defendants.

"She was the very least one in the conspiracy," Lane argued. "Her role was either minor or minimal. She was not a leader."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne Gardner pushed back hard on Lane's request, pointing out that by going to trial, Goforth had forfeited any benefit she might have received by cooperating with authorities and assisting the investigation.

"She hasn't accepted responsibility," Gardner said.

"Everybody else pled to the same thing she was convicted of, the same amount of drugs.

"When they accepted responsibility, they cooperated with the government and they earned their reductions ... To give probation to her or to sentence her to five months gives her a benefit she did not earn."

Lane argued that Goforth's involvement came at the behest of Gutierrez.

"I don't know if it would rise to the level of coercion or duress but I know that Mr. Gutierrez, at that time, was heavily into methamphetamine," Lane said.

"That's the reason Mr. Petersen decided he didn't want to work with Mr. Gutierrez."

Miller noted that had Goforth pleaded guilty she would likely have received probation as well, or at most a year in prison.

But, he said, while "I can't see sending you home today," a three-year sentence would be too harsh.

Goforth read a brief statement, saying that when she became involved in the conspiracy, "I honestly did not understand the severity of the consequences at the time."

She said when she is released, her plan is to return to California, marry her finance and open a custom furniture business.

"I will never get drawn into this lifestyle again," she said. "I ask that you have mercy on me and allow me the chance to let my actions speak louder than my words."

But, after Goforth finished, Miller said it sounded as though she had characterized her role as that of an innocent victim who got drawn into the conspiracy, but that testimony during the trial indicated otherwise.

"I sat there and I listened to the testimony," he said.

"You were in charge of what you were doing.

"There was nobody pulling you along to do anything and you're sitting there, it's like you're trying to run a game on me, trying to make me think you were an innocent victim who just kind of showed up and you ended up being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"That's just a damned lie based on the testimony I heard."

Goforth began to speak again but Miller cut her off.

"All you're going to do is make it worse," he said.

"You probably would have been better off not speaking at all. So here's what I'm going to do and let the appeals fly."

In addition to the 21-month prison term, Miller ordered Goforth to serve two years of supervised release after she leaves prison.

Print Headline: Californian draws 21-month prison term for role in steroid ring


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