In an unexpected ending to a long and complex case, three men who police say were yuppie masterminds of a San Fernando Valley-based cocaine trafficking ring known as the Monkey Boys pleaded guilty Tuesday to reduced drug charges.
Under terms of a plea bargain, Carlos (Big Carlos) Rivera and top associate David (Crockett) Lara will be sentenced to eight years in state prison, while Richard R. Inouye will be sentenced to serve six years. Formal sentencing is set for Oct. 27, and the three will remain in jail until then.
Although all three could be out of prison within five years, authorities hailed the sentences as significant, particularly because none of the men had prior convictions. In addition, as part of the complicated settlement, Rivera and Lara, both 28, will lose expensive sports cars bought with drug money.
“You’ve got to consider the benefit to the community; I think it was a decent and rational decision,” said Lt. Don MacNeil of the Glendale Police Department narcotics unit. His officers have spent more than two years investigating the Monkey Boys, so dubbed because of their habit of mimicking each others’ free-spending, hedonistic ways.
“You’d like to see people who engage in this type of behavior sent up the river for life, for the discouragement of others,” MacNeil said. “But we live in a world, and within a justice system, that is stretched to the maximum. And it’s impractical in this day and age to expect a lot more.”
Until their arrests, authorities say, Rivera and dozens of associates made millions of dollars from the sale of cocaine and marijuana. Police say they used their profits to live the lives of moguls, spending their days on the golf course and evenings in swank nightclubs. Within the past two years, as authorities climbed the group’s corporate ladder, dozens of Monkey Boys have been arrested, including a man suspected of heading the distribution arm of the organization, William Mikus.
Mikus and four men police say were his top associates were arrested in March and face long prison terms if convicted. No trial dates have been set.
When Rivera, Lara and Inouye were arrested in early August, police confiscated 31 pounds of cocaine with a street value of $1.4 million and five pounds of marijuana from a Studio City apartment.
Under Tuesday’s plea bargain, charges will be dropped against a fifth associate, Tracy Lynnette Griffith, a 22-year-old woman police say was Rivera’s mistress, as long as she enters a drug treatment program, prosecutors said.
“Through all this, (Rivera) still took care of the young lady, if there is an honorable aspect to all this,” MacNeil said. Griffith was freed Tuesday. Like the other defendants, her bail had been set at $2 million.
Little was said at a formal hearing Tuesday, since negotiations between defense lawyers and Deputy Dist. Atty. Susan Bryant-Deason occurred behind closed doors. During the brief courtroom appearance Tuesday, at least one defendant--Inouye--appeared to be weeping. So did some family members, who left the courtroom in tears.
“You have to understand--eight years is a lot of time. A lot of time,” said Rivera’s defense lawyer, Harvey E. Byron. He said he and other defense attorneys were not entirely happy with the settlement, but that prosecutors and police had pressed for even more prison time. Both sides were willing to give a little to settle the case, Byron said.
“We wanted to avoid the potential of a lot of litigation,” Byron said. “They felt it was in their best interests, so we disposed of it.”
Specifically, Rivera of Canyon Country and Lara of Sherman Oaks pleaded guilty to one count each of possession of cocaine for the purpose of sale, and to a reduced special allegation charge, in which each will be sentenced to five years extra time because of the amount of cocaine seized. They could have faced 10 years extra apiece because of the amount of cocaine seized.
Inouye, 28, of Simi Valley pleaded guilty to similar charges, but will only serve an extra three years because authorities believed he was less involved in the drug trafficking.
Charges of conspiracy and possession of marijuana for sale will be dropped against all three men.
Under the terms of the agreement, Byron said, Rivera agrees to give up the bevy of sports cars seized from his house by police, including a black Porsche 911 Slantnose cabriolet, a top-of-the-line BMW coupe, stretch Lincoln limousine and a new Nissan Pathfinder. Lara will give up a Porsche 911 cabriolet and a custom Chevrolet pickup truck.
Authorities had been moving to seize Rivera’s $325,000 house near Magic Mountain, but said Tuesday the costs of recovering the property under civil forfeiture laws would be too time-consuming and expensive to make it worthwhile.