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California man who mailed more than 500 pounds of marijuana to Richmond gets nearly 3 years

A man who mailed more than a quarter of a ton of marijuana from San Francisco to Richmond in little over a year and a half was sentenced to 35 months in prison Wednesday.

Nathan Driver, 26, pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiracy to distribute marijuana, admitting that he shipped 530 pounds of marijuana in 136 parcels to Jonathan Hall, 24, of the Richmond area, from March 31, 2016, to September 2018.

Driver was sentenced Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson who noted that unlike some other drug defendants, Driver did not come from a disadvantaged background or broken family. Driver’s crime, said Hudson, was “not driven by need but driven by greed.”

Driver, who has a college degree and no prior convictions, faced up to 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine, but federal sentencing guidelines called for a term of 30 to 37 months.

“This was a sophisticated criminal enterprise,” Hudson said Wednesday. “He’s a well-educated young man ... who got involved in serious drug trafficking.”

Driver’s lawyer, Edward J. Ungvarsky, said, “What we have here is a crime that’s extremely stupid done by someone who should have known better.”

“Perhaps he was using too much of his own product,” suggested Ungvarsky at one point.

The scheme was not sophisticated, Ungvarsky argued. The money — nearly $400,000 — went directly into Driver’s personal bank account and cash was mailed to his home.

Ungvarsky said the $400,000 was not all profit since Driver needed to purchase the marijuana he sent to Virginia.

He asked Hudson to impose a term of time already served in jail to be followed by three years of supervised probation.

Olivia Norman, an assistant U.S. attorney, asked Hudson to impose a prison term within the guideline range, arguing that the crime was a serious one warranting a prison term to deter others and protect the public.

“But for the fact that he had no prior criminal history, he would have been facing five years in prison,” Norman said.

Norman wrote in a sentencing memorandum to Hudson that “the allure of quick money and the trappings of illegal drug trafficking are increasingly tempting more and more people to the illegal trade, in spite of the concerns of prosecution. The threat of being caught and being sentenced to prison was not sufficient to protect the public from this defendant.”

Hall, who pleaded guilty to the same charge, is scheduled to be sentenced by Hudson on July 26.

In pleading guilty, Driver said he mailed packages of marijuana to Hall to post office boxes in Virginia linked to businesses that Hall established and registered through the Virginia State Corporation Commission. Driver said he sent Hall an average of five parcels per month typically weighing between 3 and 5 pounds.

Hall allegedly distributed the marijuana, or marijuana derivative, in Virginia. A statement of facts signed by Hall said that, for example, on Feb. 3, 2017, Hall sold a pound of marijuana for $2,800, and on April 5, 2017, he sold 4 ounces of hash oil for $1,800.

When he pleaded guilty, Hall admitted depositing roughly $400,000 of proceeds into a bank account in 62 deposits of less than $10,000 each to avoid triggering a bank reporting requirement that might have led to the disclosure of the illegal operation.

Hall also mailed 33 packages of cash, roughly two per month, to Driver’s home in San Francisco, one of them containing $7,780.

Given a chance to address Hudson before the sentence was imposed Wednesday, Driver said, “I apologize to the court. I apologize to Virginia and to the city of Richmond and to my family and loved ones.”

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