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Man sentenced in $3M Gainesville drug case was recruited by cartel, lawyer says
Israel Bustos-Padilla
Israel Bustos-Padilla

The attorney for a Mexican man sentenced to eight and a half years in federal prison claimed in court filings his client was recruited by a drug cartel after trying to escape poverty in his home country.

Israel Bustos-Padilla, 32, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute at least 500 grams of methamphetamine. U.S. District Judge Richard W. Story sentenced Bustos-Padilla Nov. 22.

In a sentencing memorandum filed with the court, defense attorney Samuel Fenn Little Jr. wrote that his client grew up in extreme poverty in Mexico.

“His adobe home without electricity was located in the midst of a cartel hotbed,” Little wrote in the memo. “Persons from Michoacan have no option other than to submit to the cartel’s wishes-demands. This attorney has been supplied with photographs of pickup truck beds overflowing with corpses and newspaper clippings of families lying in a pool of blood as a result of such failure to do as the cartel instructed.”

Little said Bustos-Padilla came to the U.S. to earn money.

“Very quickly he was contacted by operators for the cartel and recruited to assist his co-defendant,” Little wrote. “This role allowed him to also support his drug addiction.”

Little wrote his client has admitted his guilt and committed to changing his ways. 

Little did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday, Dec. 1.

Story recommended Bustos-Padilla receive credit for time served in federal custody and be considered for intensive drug treatment during his custodial sentence.

“At the conclusion of the custodial sentence, (Bustos-Padilla) shall be remanded to Immigration Customs Enforcement officials for appropriate removal proceedings from the United States,” Story recommended in his sentence.

Bustos-Padilla and Juan Hernandez-Pacheco, also of Mexico, were arrested after a Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad bust in August 2020

Authorities said they seized 67 pounds of methamphetamine in crystal and liquid form, packaging materials, chemicals and a ledger at a Gainesville home in the 3,700 block of James Ed Road off of Cleveland Highway. Law enforcement estimated the drugs’ value at $3 million.

Hernandez-Pacheco pleaded guilty to the same charge and was sentenced to eight years in federal prison in July.

Hernandez-Pacheco’s attorney, James Wesley Bryant, wrote that 23.3 kilograms of the suspected crystal methamphetamine seized was determined to be dimethyl sulfone, a suspected cutting agent, after reviewing the government’s lab reports.