Crime

First defendant in Fresno deputy police chief drug case is sentenced

Defendants in drug-conspiracy charges: front row, left to right, Fresno police Deputy Chief Keith Foster, Randy Flowers, Dennis Foster, Rafael Guzman; back row, left to right, Sarah Ybarra and Jennifer Donabedian. In August, Ybarra pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and/or possess with the intent to distribute marijuana. She was sentenced Monday to one year in federal prison.
Defendants in drug-conspiracy charges: front row, left to right, Fresno police Deputy Chief Keith Foster, Randy Flowers, Dennis Foster, Rafael Guzman; back row, left to right, Sarah Ybarra and Jennifer Donabedian. In August, Ybarra pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and/or possess with the intent to distribute marijuana. She was sentenced Monday to one year in federal prison.

The first of seven defendants snarled in a federal drug-trafficking ring that prosecutors contend was run by former Fresno police Deputy Chief Keith Foster was sentenced Monday to a year in prison for mailing several pounds of marijuana through a package delivery company.

Wearing handcuffs and leg irons, Sarah Ybarra, 37, said she agreed with the punishment announced in U.S. District Court in Fresno.

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

Monday, Ybarra’s attorney, Richard Beshwate, said his client was a minor player in the drug conspiracy. She neither knew Foster nor will have to testify against him, he said.

“She has accepted responsibility for what she did,” Beshwate said outside the courthouse. “She’s glad not to be caught up in the bigger part of the case.”

A federal indictment charges Foster, a law enforcement veteran of almost 30 years who in early April resigned from the Fresno Police Department, with participating in three separate conspiracies to distribute different controlled substances.

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.

She’s glad not to be caught up in the bigger part of the case.

Fresno defense attorney Richard Beshwate

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

Ybarra was a friend of Denny Foster, Beshwate said.

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.

All the defendants are from Fresno except Reynolds, who is from Shasta Lake.

Sarah Ybarra is a friend of Denny Foster, who is former Deputy Chief Keith Foster’s nephew.

Court records spell out what Ybarra did.

“Specifically, on or about Jan. 2, 2015, defendant (Ybarra) assisted Denny Foster in identifying and contacting a source of supply for the acquisition of approximately four pounds of marijuana which defendant knew Denny Foster intended to sell in Fresno, California, and/or ship to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for distribution,” her plea agreement said.

“Additionally, on or about December 18, 2014, and February 7, 2015, defendant (Ybarra) assisted Denny Foster in shipping marijuana to an individual in Albuquerque, New Mexico,” the plea agreement said. “At all times, defendant knew that marijuana is a controlled substance.”

Because of time served, Ybarra should be released from federal prison in about two months, Beshwate said Monday.

Once she is released from prison, Ybarra will be on probation for two years, federal Judge Anthony Ishii told her. During this time, she must submit to drug testing and allow law enforcement to search her home without a warrant, the judge said. In addition, she cannot possess a cellphone without permission from her probation officer, and she must undergo mental health treatment and register as a drug offender.

Since their arrest in March, Foster and the other defendants have been free as the case makes its way through the court system. Ybarra was the only defendant to remain in custody because she has a history of failing to appear in court, her attorney said.

Foster and the other defendants are scheduled to return to court on Feb. 1 for a status hearing.

Pablo Lopez: 559-441-6434, @beecourts

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