Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Migrant guilty in marijuana seizure

By Janice Morse, jmorse@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Jurors on Monday convicted a migrant farm worker in the biggest marijuana seizure ever made by the Butler County Sheriff's Office.

        Juan M. Marruffo, 27, a worker based in Sidney, Ohio, was convicted by jurors who deliberated about 35 minutes, assistant prosecutor Craig Hedric said.

        Common Pleas Judge Michael J. Sage immediately sentenced Mr. Marruffo to the mandatory eight years in prison and imposed a $10,000 fine, along with a five-year driver's license suspension that takes effect Feb. 1, 2010.

        He was indicted after the December seizure in Madison Township of 207 pounds of marijuana from a tractor-trailer authorities said contained broccoli, snow peas — and 11 tightly packed bricks of marijuana. The marijuana was wrapped with cellophane, clothes-dryer sheets and axle grease in an attempt to thwart drug-detecting dogs, authorities said.

        At the time of the seizure, authorities estimated the high-grade marijuana's street value at $500,000. Dark green plastic garbage bags containing the packages sat in front of the witness box.

        Mr. Hedric told jurors the defendant gave a statement admitting his involvement.

        But defense lawyer Richard N. Koehler II described his client as a hard-working man who was unemployed when a friend offered him a chance to earn $1,000 just for conveying directions to a trucker who was hauling the contraband.

        “The lure of easy money scooped him up,” Mr. Koehler said.

        But he argued his client never offered to sell the marijuana and was merely “an errand boy” or “messenger.”

        Mr. Marruffo is a U.S. citizen who has “no (prior) record whatsoever,” Mr. Koehler said, arguing for acquittal.

        In March, a jury acquitted a co-defendant, trucker Rafael Hernandez, 57, of San Antonio, Texas, of drug trafficking and drug possession charges.


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