Marijuana Kingpin Sorry; Says 'Things Got Out of Hand'

Joshua Hester sentenced to 100 months in federal prison for his role in a drug and money-laundering scheme

By Paul Krueger and Lauren Steussy
|  Thursday, Jan 24, 2013  |  Updated 1:06 PM PDT
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Images: Feds Bust Alleged Pot Ring

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Accused Drug Ring Leader Refuses to Leave Jail

The alleged ringleader of a marijuana and money-laundering scheme refused to leave his jail cell Thursday to appear in court for a scheduled hearing.

Pot Ring Suspects Appear in Court

Some of the dozen suspects accused of illegally selling drugs from two medicinal marijuana dispensaries in San Diego County cried in federal court Monday when they learned the charges they face.
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The ringleader of a drug and money-laundering scheme cried as he apologized to his family at his Thursday sentencing. 

A judge sentenced Joshua John Hester, 31, to 100 months in federal prison for illegally selling thousands of pounds of marijuana at two dispensaries in San Diego.

Hester admitted to being the silent owner of the two dispensaries as a front for his business. He also created a phony board of directors to run his fake business. US District Attorney Laura Duffy said his case was the "most significant prosecution of a large-scale dispensary operator in the Southern District of California."

Judge Irma Gonzales said that although dispensaries "can serve a lot of good in the community" by helping the sick, Hester used them as a front and "did something that is terribly illegal."

Duffy agreed, calling Hester the "poster boy" for the types of dispensary operations that the federally government is targeting.

"He wasn’t overseeing a non-profit collective that served sick people," Duffy said in a statement. "He was a convicted drug trafficker making millions of dollars selling high-quality marijuana to recreational users and exploiting state laws that were meant to help the seriously ill."

Prosecutors said Hester laundered over $2 million by purchasing a home in Rancho Santa Fe, where he grew pot in a secret room. 

He also admitted to secretly owning a 37-acre plot of land in the Palomar Mountain area, but placed the property in another name to conceal his ownership, Duffy said. 

"[You] never really had respect for the law ever. Ever," Gonzales told Hester in court Thursday. 

During Thursday's sentencing, Hester cried as he apologized to his family and Judge Gonzales. 

"I am sorry," he said through tears. "I take full responsibility for things that got out of hand."

At his sentencing Thursday, Hester's attorney asked for a four-year sentence instead of the recommended 10 years, saying "this is not meth, not cocaine." 

Hester was arrested in Los Angeles in July 2010. 

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