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Keith Foster drug case appears far from a resolution

Former Fresno police Deputy Chief Keith Foster and six others are facing a variety of federal drug-trafficking offenses.
Former Fresno police Deputy Chief Keith Foster and six others are facing a variety of federal drug-trafficking offenses.

It’s been more than six months since former Fresno police Deputy Chief Keith Foster and six others were indicted on a variety of federal drug-trafficking offenses, and right now it looks like the case’s ultimate end game is far, far in the future.

There was a short hearing Monday on the case’s status, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheila Oberto quickly set another hearing for Feb. 1. It all lasted around five minutes.

Outside of court, Fresno attorney Marshall Hodgkins, who is representing Foster, said the discovery — essentially potential evidence gathered by federal investigators — is “voluminous.” As an example, Hodgkins said there are thousands of wiretapped conversations that have not been transcribed. He is in the process of doing that now. After that, the transcripts must be analyzed.

Fresno attorney Marshall Hodgkins, who is representing Foster, said thousands of wiretapped conversations have not yet been transcribed.

In addition, Fresno attorney Sal Sciandra is new to the case. He was appointed to represent Rafael Guzman on Aug. 25 in place of the U.S. Federal Defender’s Office. Because of Sciandra’s late arrival, he is still getting up to speed on the case, he told Oberto on Monday.

It all led Hodgkins, who is 65, to quip that he will be drawing Social Security before the case is done.

The federal indictment, unsealed April 9, charges Foster with participating in three separate conspiracies to distribute different controlled substances. Foster resigned from the Fresno Police Department in early April, shortly after his arrest.

Foster is charged with conspiring with a co-defendant, Randy Flowers, to distribute oxycodone. They are charged individually in four separate counts to distribute or possess with the intent to distribute oxycodone. Flowers is further charged with being a felon in possession of three firearms. Flowers is Foster’s nephew.

The 13-page indictment also charged Foster and Guzman with conspiring to distribute heroin. Foster also is charged with conspiring with Ricky Reynolds, Jennifer Donabedian, Sarah Ybarra and Denny Foster to distribute marijuana. Denny Foster is also a nephew of Keith Foster.

Reynolds is separately charged with manufacturing marijuana, and both Reynolds and Denny Foster are charged individually in various counts alleging distribution of marijuana. Denny Foster is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Each defendant is charged in at least one count with using a cellphone in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense. Finally, Denny Foster and Guzman are charged with conspiring to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin.

At the end of August, Ybarra, 37, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and/or possess with intent to distribute marijuana. In exchange, federal prosecutors agreed to drop three other charges.

She is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 23, and faces a maximum possibility of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. But under a plea agreement, federal prosecutors are recommending — and Ybarra will not contest — a one-year prison term.

As for Foster and the remaining five defendants, the end of the case at this point seems far in the future.

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