A local woman caught dealing methamphetamine last year avoided prison time for the crimes, but she now faces the possibility of losing her car and more than $20,000 in cash found in her apartment.
Last month, Victoria L. Sandoval, 48, pleaded guilty to a pair of felony counts for selling $1,200 worth of meth to a Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation informant over a week-long span last summer.
On May 10, District Court Judge Steven Cranfill sentenced Sandoval to five years of supervised probation. Sandoval had served roughly four months in jail before being released to start the probation.
“Given the defendant’s limited previous criminal history, as was recognized by [Wyoming Probation and Parole], they considered her to be a ‘likely candidate for community supervision’ and the court agreed,” Sandoval’s court-appointed defense attorney, Scott Kath, said of the sentence.
Kath added that the probation ordered by Cranfill came with “the very strong admonishment that if she violates her probation she will be doing the [five to seven years]” in prison that are currently suspended.
The Park County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office had asked Cranfill to send Sandoval to prison for the five to seven years, noting in part the amount of methamphetamine involved.
On two occasions, Sandoval sold roughly a quarter-ounce — between 6 and 7 grams — of meth to a DCI informant, one on July 29 and the second on Aug. 4, collecting $600 for both sales.
“That is a very high amount, typically not the 1-gram deliveries that we see,” Park County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Skoric said at court hearing earlier this year.
Charging documents composed by local DCI agents say that, during one of the purchases, Sandoval actually brought out a half-ounce of meth before the informant explained they only had the money for a quarter-ounce. Both sales took place at Sandoval’s Pioneer Avenue apartment in Cody.
Skoric filed the two charges of delivering a controlled substance on Jan. 9; Cody police arrested Sandoval the next day.
“I’m a junkie, but I don’t sell drugs,” Sandoval reportedly told Cody Police Officer Blake Stinson on the way to jail.
However, court records say Sandoval initially came to law enforcement’s attention when someone told police they suspected drug activity in her apartment — reporting numerous vehicles coming and going from Sandoval’s apartment at all hours of the day and night.
Stinson used that and other information to obtain a search warrant for Sandoval’s apartment and 2013 Ford Fusion. Officers found and seized many items that they believed were related to using or trafficking drugs; according to Skoric and court records, that included scales and other measuring devices, “hundreds” of plastic bags of various sizes, numerous pipes, ledgers listing various transactions and 8 grams of meth. In her Ford Fusion, officers found a backpack with a digital scale that officer Stinson believed was a “drug selling kit.”
Authorities also seized $20,406.85 in cash.
Most of the money was found in a pair of safes located in Sandoval’s bathtub, court records say. It was enough cash that it took authorities some time to add it up.
“Large sum. Too much to count,” Stinson wrote in the receipt for the seized property.
Another $1,400 was found on a bedroom desk, with another $180 in a drawer; $400 was found in a dresser in the closet and $345 was found under the boxspring of her bed, according to the receipt.
The Wyoming Attorney General’s Office has filed a civil forfeiture case that asks a judge to let the government take ownership of that cash and Sandoval’s Ford Fusion.
In a forfeiture complaint filed in Park County’s District Court on May 9, Assistant Attorney General Philip Donoho alleged the car and money “was used, or intended for use, in the delivery or receipt of controlled substances, or was otherwise used to facilitate a violation of the Wyoming Controlled Substance Act.”
If the attorney general’s office can prove that allegation by “clear and convincing evidence” — a legal standard that is a little easier to meet than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” requirement in criminal trials — the government can keep the property.
The state used to have to only prove its case by a “preponderance of the evidence” — basically, needing only to show it was more likely than not that the state was correct — but the Wyoming Legislature toughened the forfeiture laws in 2016.
The attorney general’s office estimates the value of the Ford Fusion at $12,000.
Sandoval will have an opportunity to object.
At Sandoval’s arraignment in late January, Skoric said he would “likely” be filing four additional charges — two felonies and two misdemeanors — based on the items that police found in Sandoval’s residence in January.
However, Skoric agreed not to pursue those allegations as part of the plea deal that resolved the drug delivery charges from last year’s sales, Kath said; he said the deal involved Sandoval pleading guilty to both counts and prosecutors agreeing to ask for no more than five to seven years in prison.
Sandoval remained in the Park County Detention Center between her arrest and sentencing, unable to post $10,000 in cash and make bail.
Kath had asked for Sandoval’s bond to be lowered in January, while Skoric objected, citing the amounts of meth involved.
Kath countered that, given “she has these charges pending against her and she knows that she is on the radar in a big way,” it was “really kind of silly to think that someone who is facing these types of allegations is just going to go out and keep doing it as alleged.”
“Well, not that it is going to happen with your client, but these silly things seem to occur rather frequently in Park County,” Judge Cranfill replied, declining to lower Sandoval’s bond.
Part of the sentence imposed by Cranfill and finalized in a May 22 order requires Sandoval to complete an inpatient drug treatment program.
Court records indicate she moved to Powell after being released.