Miami-Dade County

A dozen members of Miami-Dade pot ring sentenced to long prison terms

A dozen members of the Santiesteban pot-peddling ring were sentenced in Miami federal court Thursday to prison for terms ranging from three years to life.

The Santiestebans — a family headed by patriarch and Mariel boatlift refugee Gilberto Sr., and joined by sons Derrick, Gilberto Jr., Alexander and Darvis — were charged along with 13 others last June with operating 20 hydroponic marijuana grow houses since 2004.

The operation yielded at least 1,146 potent pot plants that produced millions of dollars in profits, authorities say.

All but one defendant, who went to trial over the past week, pleaded guilty to various charges.

On Thursday, Derrick Santiesteban was sentenced to life in prison by U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore on charges of marijuana distribution, money laundering and kidnapping. The last charge, which carried a mandatory life sentence, resulted from the killing of a rival gang member who stole a load of pot from the Southwest Miami-Dade organization in late 2009.

Juan Felipe Castañeda was sentenced to 30 years for conspiring to kidnap the robber and to possess with the intent to distribute more than 1,000 marijuana plants.

Alexander Santiesteban was sentenced to about 22 years on the same charge as well as conspiracy to commit money laundering.

German Silvestro was sentenced to 12 years, while David Silva, Francisco Javier Diaz, Alejandro Pimentel, and John Villalonga were each sentenced to 10 years, for the pot-distribution conspiracy. Raul Fabian Ramirez Jr. was sentenced to about four years for the same offense.

Derrick Santiesteban’s wife, Yadira, was sentenced to about six years for the money laundering conspiracy. Dayana Castellanos and Estrella J. Mijares were sentenced to three years for the same offense.

On Monday, Norge Manduley was found not guilty of kidnapping and killing the rival gang member. A handful of government witnesses testified in federal court that he was the shooter, but a couple of defense witnesses countered that he wasn’t the triggerman who killed Fidel Ruz Moreno four years ago.

If convicted, Manduley would have faced a mandatory life sentence.

But the jury found Manduley guilty of one count: conspiring to possess with intent to distribute less than 100 marijuana plants. Sentencing is set for July 30 before Judge Moore.