Woodland Man Pleads Guilty to Firearms Trafficking and Unlawful Gun Possession

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FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Department of Justice Building is pictured

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Justin Wade Johnson, 38, of Woodland, pleaded guilty today to the unlawful sale of a firearm to a felon and being a felon in possession of a firearm, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to court documents, Johnson is one of 27 federal defendants arrested in February 2018 on narcotics and weapons-related charges as part of Operation Silent Night, a multi-agency law enforcement investigation into coordinated criminal activity in Woodland. Johnson is the 27th and final defendant to plead guilty. Beginning in the spring of 2016, the investigation uncovered organized criminal activity in Woodland with ties to criminal organizations in California’s jail and prison system. Although centered in Yolo County, the investigation revealed that at least nine other California counties were negatively impacted by these criminal organizations: Sacramento, Sutter, Colusa, Yuba, Del Norte, Solano, Fresno, Santa Clara, and Siskiyou.

Johnson is a felon who is prohibited from possessing any firearm because he was previously convicted of felonies for assault with a deadly weapon, possessing a weapon while being a prisoner, and possession of marijuana for sale. In October 2017, Johnson sold an AR-15 rifle to a convicted felon. At the time of the sale, Johnson knew that he was selling the rifle to a felon. Later in October, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Johnson’s storage unit in Woodland and seized a shotgun, a rifle, and four handguns.

Operation Silent Night is the product of an investigation by the FBI, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office, the Woodland Police Department, and the California Highway Patrol. The following agencies provided substantial assistance: the Colusa County Sheriff’s Office, the Sacramento Police Department, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office, the West Sacramento Police Department, the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office, the Davis Police Department, the Yuba City Police Department, the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office, the Sutter County Sheriff’s Office, the Solano County Sheriff’s Office, the Vacaville Police Department, the Correctional Intelligence Task Force, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Lee is prosecuting the cases. Johnson is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley on Feb. 23, 2023. Johnson faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

The other defendants that have been convicted are listed below:

  • Aldo Arellano, 28, of Marysville, was convicted of distribution of methamphetamine and sentenced to eight years in prison;
  • Raul Barajas, 24, of Woodland, was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute controlled substances and was sentenced to five years in prison;
  • Patrick Botello, 36, of Pelican Bay State Prison, was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute methamphetamine and heroin. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 6, 2022;
  • Israel Covarrubias, 30, of Woodland, was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute controlled substances and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime and was sentenced to 15 years in prison;
  • Mike Do, 40, of Sacramento, was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to three years of supervised release;
  • Milton Escobedo, 33, of Woodland, was convicted of distribution of cocaine and was sentenced to 33 months in prison;
  • Rachel Felix, 43, of Woodland, was convicted of distribution of methamphetamine and was sentenced to seven years in prison;
  • Daisy Gonzalez, 37, of Termo, was convicted of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and was sentenced to four years of supervised release;
  • Ashley Habash, 32, of Marysville, was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute methamphetamine and heroin and was sentenced to five years of supervised release;
  • Jose Heredia, 39, of Los Banos, was convicted of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and was sentenced to five years in prison;
  • Edgar Jimenez, 23, of Sacramento, was convicted of using a cellphone to facilitate a drug trafficking offense and was sentenced to three years in prison;
  • Stefanie Lavan, 69, of Woodland, was convicted of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and was sentenced to two years in prison;
  • John Lemus, 35, of Woodland, was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to 46 months in prison;
  • Jose Madrigal-Vega, 37, Woodland, was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute controlled substances and was sentenced to eight years in prison;
  • Victor Magana, 28, of Woodland, was convicted of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and was sentenced to 11 years in prison;
  • Carlos Martinez, 43, of Woodland, was convicted of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and was sentenced to five years in prison;
  • James Masterson, 28, of Newcastle, Pennsylvania, was convicted of using a cellphone to facilitate a drug trafficking offense and was sentenced to four years in prison;
  • Brenda Miranda, 25, of Napa, was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute methamphetamine and heroin and was sentenced to five years of supervised release;
  • Reginald Pajimola, 28, of Marysville, was convicted using a cellphone to facilitate a drug trafficking offense and was sentenced to two years of supervised release;
  • Blas Ramirez, 24, of Sacramento, was convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm and was sentenced to 18 months in prison;
  • Mercedez Silva-Sims, 26, of Colusa, was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute methamphetamine and heroin and was sentenced to five years of supervised release;
  • Joshua Sims, 27, of Colusa, was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute methamphetamine and heroin, and attempted distribution of methamphetamine and was sentenced to 10 years in prison;
  • Erica Umbay, 47, of Woodland, was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to six years in prison;
  • Trevor White, 27, of Sacramento, was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute controlled substances and was sentenced to 10 years in prison;
  • Ricardo Villa, 43, of Woodland, was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute methamphetamine and heroin. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 3, 2022.

This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at www.justice.gov/OCDETF.