PREVIOUSLY: Largest One-Time Seizure in Humboldt Drug Task Force History: 30 Pounds of Meth, 5.5 Pounds of Cocaine, 3 Pounds of Heroin, 2 Pounds of Fentanyl, 50 Pounds of Weed


Lomeli Osuna booking photo

Sixty-nine-year-old Jose Santiago Lomeli Osuna received an 18-year sentence this morning per the terms of a plea deal for five counts of drug possession for sale. The charges stem from the largest one-time seizure of illicit substances in the history of the Humboldt County Drug Task Force. However, Mr. Lomeli Osuna will spend only a fraction of that 18-year term behind bars.

In handing down the sentence Judge Christopher Wilson explained that these nonviolent drug offenses entitle Lomeli Osuna to a split sentence, with up to half of his time to be spent in the county jail and the remainder under mandatory supervision. 

“The amount of controlled substances brought into the county is completely inexcusable and warrant Mr. Lomeli Osuna being excluded from the community for the lengthiest period of time that’s available to the court,” Wilson said. “That’s how dangerous this particular behavior was — and is.”

The maximum sentence for his crimes, which include possession for sale of large amounts of fentanyl, methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine, is 18 years. However, per rule 4.415 of the California Rules of Court, Lomeli Osuna must be incarcerated in the county jail, rather than state prison. Wilson said that fact gave him pause.

“Eighteen years in the county facility is obviously not viable for a lot of different reasons,” he said. “One is that the county facility is not designed for long-term incarceration; it doesn’t have programs towards that.”

He also noted that Lomeli Osuna is 69 years old and has a range of health problems, including diabetes, gallstones and high blood pressure. And since he’s not a U.S. citizen he’s not eligible for Medicare or other other forms of financial support. 

With the local community on the hook for Lomeli Osuna’s upkeep, likely including hospitalizations, Wilson decided to set his jail term at six years, with the assumption that he will be deported back to Mexico upon his release. 

He was arrested in Eureka in September following a year-long investigation into a large-scale drug trafficking organization. Drug Task Force agents served six search warrants at sites allegedly connected to Lomeli Osuna’s drug ring and wound up seizing:

  • 30 pounds of methamphetamine  
  • 5.5 pounds of cocaine
  • 3 pounds of heroin
  • 2 pounds of fentanyl
  • 150 cannabis plants
  • 50 pounds of processed cannabis
  • $115,500 US Currency and
  • 2 firearms.

In urging the court to give Lomeli Osuna more than six years behind bars, Deputy District Attorney Ian Harris pointed to this massive haul and said it included “enough fentanyl to kill almost everybody in Humboldt County.”

“The people would request a split sentence that encompasses more time in custody — over the halfway point,” Harris said.

Lomeli Osuna was represented by Humboldt County Conflict Counsel Meagan O’Connell, who communicated with her client through an interpreter. 

“Mr. Lomeli Osuna was somewhat desperate,” she told the judge. “His wife suffered from cancer. She did pass away while he was in custody. They were paying out-of-pocket for her care.”

O’Connell added that her client regrets his conduct and took responsibility by pleading to all the charges against him.

But Wilson noted that Lomeli Osuna had been sentenced on drug charges twice already — in 1999 and again in 2003, both times in Los Angeles County — and was deported both times, with the latter deportation coming after he’d completed a three-year prison sentence. 

“Deportation apparently does not equate to eliminating behavior that endangers the community,” Wilson remarked.

The judge also mentioned that according to Lomeli Osuna’s probation report, he initially denied being involved in the sales portion of the drug operation and said that “the United States was not listening or caring that he was not the main person in charge of those crimes and that he was taking the blame for everyone else.”

But Lomeli Osuna refused to tell authorities about anyone else who might be involved in the organization.

“Doesn’t work that way,” Wilson informed him in court this morning. “Either you are taking responsibility or, if you’re going to try to mitigate it by saying there’s other people involved with their higher ups, then at that point you have to tell us who they are.”

Wilson lamented the rules that tied his hands in sentencing, calling it “a gap in the legislation” that somebody who was trafficking in such large quantities of drugs is required to serve his incarceration term at the county jail.

But since that is the case, he said, “I think that the six-year term … is a reasonable amount of time for him to be out of the community prior to whatever happens to him next, which I assume will probably be his deportation.”

Wilson noted that Lomeli Osuna has two children living here in the community and thus may want to return here someday.

“I hope not,” the judge said, adding that doing so would likely be considered a violation of the terms of his mandatory supervision, which would likely send him to prison.

Lomeli Osuna has spent 138 days in custody, which gives him credit for double that amount — 276 days — pursuant to the “half time” credits spelled out in section 4019 of the penal code.

“I’m going to add an additional order here,” Wilson said before finalizing the sentence. “I know that sometimes early release is granted by the jail for various reasons.”

Not in this case, he said. “There is [to be] no early release without a court order.”

Lomeli Osuna, who’d sat quietly through most of the hearing, his face largely obscured behind a full white beard and his wrists cuffed together in his lap, was then escorted from the courtroom.

Photo from the September drug bust via HCDTF.