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Man sentenced in drug case; attorney claims client was merely a mule

A Duluth man was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison in a meth case after authorities seized roughly 200 kilograms of the drug. His attorney said his client was merely a mule and the “low man on the totem pole.”

David Garcia pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute meth and possession with intent to distribute meth, and he was sentenced Sept. 21 to 14 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Richard W. Story.

Garcia and three others were indicted in October 2021 after a 200-kilogram drug bust two months earlier.

Authorities did not provide an estimated street value for the drugs seized, but cases like this typically range in the millions of dollars.

The three others indicted were Almarud Duarte, of Oakwood, Eduardo Penaloza-Pacheco, of Gainesville, and Kevin Tello, of Lawrenceville.

Penaloza-Pacheco was sentenced earlier this month to five years in federal prison.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the bulk of the drug’s seized came from Garcia’s residence in Duluth.

Garcia’s defense attorney, Graham McKinnon, filed a motion that described his client’s role as a “combination of warehouse worker and mule.”

“An unknown person in the drug enterprise picked the house where the drugs were warehoused, paid the rent and utilities for the house, and Mr. Garcia had no say in who had access to the house,” according to McKinnon’s motion, saying Garcia worked at the home.

“The drug enterprise decided what drugs came and went from the house and Mr. Garcia had absolutely (no) input in those decisions.”

McKinnon wrote Garcia would also deliver drugs, starting at $200 and later $250 for each delivery.

“Clearly, the drug enterprise considered Mr. Garcia to be expendable and the guy that goes to jail if there is a bust,” McKinnon wrote.

McKinnon said Garcia had not been in trouble before and was a hard worker.

After his prison time, Garcia will be on supervised release for 5 years.

The cases for Tello and Duarte are still open, according to court records.