Father, son who used produce business to sell marijuana plead guilty

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PHOENIX -- A father and son who authorities said used a produce business to sell bulk quantities of marijuana have pleaded guilty in the case.

Robert Hernandez Betancourt, 28, of Phoenix, pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 2,200 pounds of marijuana. His father, Moses Monroy Betancourt, 48, of Phoenix, pleaded guilty to the same offense last Thursday.

According to investigators, the two used the father's produce business, Pinnacle Produce, and other Valley locations to sell bulk quantities of marijuana to other conspirators, some of whom used the U.S. Postal Service as well as ground transportation to deliver the marijuana.

Investigators said Moses Betancourt would also, for a fee, allow other conspirators to use his produce warehouse, located at 12th and Jackson streets in Phoenix, to load marijuana into semi-trucks for interstate transport, and would often sell them produce loads in which to hide the bales of marijuana.

At sentencing on July 12, both men face 10 years to life in prison and a maximum fine of $4 million.

Two other family members, both uncles of Robert Betancourt, previously pleaded guilty to marijuana trafficking in the same federal case. Pedro Aurelio Betancourt, 40, of Phoenix, pleaded guilty on Jan. 25 and is awaiting sentencing. Vicente S. Mendivil, 32, of Phoenix, pleaded guilty on Feb. 8 and has already been sentenced. Four other co-defendants are pending sentencing.

The family previously made Valley news in May 2007 when Moses Betancourt's wife, Maribel Hernandez Betancourt, was kidnapped and held for ransom because of a drug debt owed by Robert Betancourt. Although the police investigated the kidnapping, the family ultimately obtained her release without police involvement.