California man pleads guilty in large Eagle County marijuana bust

Defendant had limited role in illegal trafficking of 124 pounds of marijuana, prosecutor says

The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and Vail Police Department recovered 124 pounds of marijuana after searching a vehicle they stopped on Interstate 70 on Aug. 25, 2021.
Eagle County Sheriff’s Office

One of two California men arrested in a large marijuana bust by the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office in August accepted a plea deal Tuesday from the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

Hecxai Narvarez-Sarmiento, a 22-year-old from Santa Rosa, California, pleaded guilty Tuesday to two amended charges — unlawful possession of a controlled substance, a Class 4 drug felony, and first-degree criminal trespass, a Class 5 felony.

The plea deal represents a significant reduction and deviation from the high-level felony drug charges originally brought against Narvarez-Sarmiento and his co-defendant, Samuel Angel Narvarez-Brito, also from Santa Rosa, upon their arrest back in August.

The two men were originally charged with several felony drug charges including offenses relating to marijuana, a Class 1 drug felony, conspiracy to commit a felony and a special offender sentencing enhancement that adds another Class 1 felony drug charge due to the large quantity of marijuana recovered.

Sheriff’s deputies, along with Vail Police, pulled the two men over in a “routine traffic stop” on Interstate 70 on Aug. 25, according to a press released issued the following day.

Narvarez-Sarmiento was in the passenger seat, and his co-defendant had been driving. Upon searching the vehicle, police found 124 pounds of marijuana and took the two men to the Eagle County jail.

Eagle County Sheriff’s deputies, together with Vail Police officers, located 124 pounds of marijuana in a vehicle stopped in a routine traffic stop on Aug. 25, 2021.
Eagle County Sheriff’s Office

In Tuesday’s hearing, Deputy District Attorney Johnny Lombardi said the charges had been amended because Narvarez-Sarmiento “may not have had as much participation in the case as the co-defendant does.”

Narvarez-Sarmiento was, however, found with “more than 4 ounces but not more than 12 ounces of a schedule 1 or 2 controlled substance,” in this case a drug called morpholine, according to the charges read by Eagle County Judge Rachel Olguin-Fresquez.

“Given the facts of the case, the people did feel (the plea deal extended to Narvarez-Sarmiento) was appropriate,” Lombardi said Tuesday.

A Class 4 drug felony is punishable by six months to one year in prison, according to Colorado State Statute. The maximum prison term becomes two years if there are “aggravating circumstances.”

A Class 5 felony is punishable by one to three years in prison and/or $1,000 to $100,000 in fines, with a two-year parole period but, again, this sentence can be extended in light of “aggravating circumstances.”

Narvarez-Sarmiento has no previous criminal history, but the plea deal stipulated that he be sentenced to a total of four years in the Colorado Department of Corrections for the two charges.

“Mr. Lombardi, given that this is a first offense, obviously a Department of Corrections sentence is a rather significant sentence,” Judge Olguin-Fresquez said Tuesday. “What are the factors that you believe aggravates this case and makes that an appropriate sentence?”

Defense attorney John Scott intervened and said the plea deal was deemed appropriate given the more severe drug felonies that Narvarez-Sarmiento faced before the deal was negotiated.

Judge Olguin-Fresquez accepted the guilty plea and sentenced Narvarez-Sarmiento to four years in prison, with a mandatory two-year parole period. The judge gave him credit for the 168 days he has already served in the Eagle County jail since his August arrest.

“Good luck, Mr. Narvarez-Sarmiento, the jail will talk to you about transport to the Department of Corrections,” Olguin-Fresquez said, ending the hearing.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.