Discovery Of Cache Of Drugs, Cash, And Weapons In Pacific Grove Apartment Leads To Federal Firearm And Drug Trafficking Charges Against Monterey County Resident

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

SAN JOSE – The Office of the United States Attorney has filed a federal criminal complaint charging Mario Jose Villagrana with federal drug distribution and firearms charges in connection with the discovery of a cache of drugs, cash, and weapons in a Pacific Grove, Calif., apartment, announced U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Wade R. Shannon.

The criminal complaint, filed April 28, 2022, and unsealed late yesterday, describes the drugs, cash, and weapons law enforcement officers found on February 15, 2022, in Villagrana’s Pacific Grove apartment and a closet within.  For example, among the weapons found were two AR-15-style and two AK-47-style rifles, four handguns, and a 30-round extended magazine.  The complaint also describes additional items collected, including a duffle bag with various caliber magazines and ammunition; two milling machines and a Dremel tool, both commonly used to fabricate firearm component parts; various gun parts; a variety of drugs, and more than $20,000 in U.S. currency.  The drugs found allegedly include over 13,000 counterfeit “M30” pills containing fentanyl (weighing more than 1.4 kilograms).  

The complaint charges Villagrana, 27 of Monterey County, Calif,, with possession with intent to distribute 40 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing fentanyl, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B)(vi), and being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).  Villagrana faces a statutory mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison, and a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, for the drug charge, as well as a statutory maximum of 10 years in prison for the firearm charge.  In addition, as part of any sentence, the court may order a maximum $5 million fine for the drug charge and a $250,000 fine for the firearm count, a term of supervised release, and forfeiture.  However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Villagrana made his initial court appearance in the Northern District of California before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins on May 3, 2022, and is scheduled to return to court May 10, for a detention hearing.  

A criminal complaint merely alleges that a crime has been committed, and, as with all defendants, Villagrana is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christoffer Lee is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Lynette Dixon.  This prosecution is the result of an investigation by the DEA, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office.