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Sunday, November 19, 2006 — Time: 5:16:23 PM EST

Illegal alien sentenced to prison
By Kay Stephens,

HOLLIDAYSBURG, PA — An illegal immigrant convicted of transporting 18 pounds of marijuana through Blair County will spend eight to 16 years in prison.

Judge Daniel Milliron imposed the sentence Friday on Salvador Guzman-Garcia, who was stopped for speeding on Old Route 220 in Blair Township in February, then arrested on possession with intent to deliver charges.

Police also found a loaded handgun attached to the vehicle’s battery.

Drug agents said the marijuana had a street value of about $90,000, describing it as pure because of its lack of roots, dirt and leaves.

Based on the amount of marijuana involved, Milliron imposed the state’s mandatory minimum three-year sentence.

Because the crime was convicted while in possession of a loaded firearm, the judge imposed the state’s mandatory minimum five-year sentence on that charge.

Guzman-Garcia will serve the sentences consecutively.

“It’s a shame that the commonwealth taxpayers have to house Guzman for a day, because he shouldn’t have been here,” Assistant District Attorney Wade Kagarise said.

Guzman-Garcia, 35, has been in the United States since he was 14, defense attorney Ted Krol said.

Immigration officials made an attempt in December 2004 to deport Guzman-Garcia to Mexico, but he reportedly told friends the matter was resolved.

“The majority of time he was in this country, he had a green card,” Krol said.

For years, Guzman-Garcia had legal permission to be in the United States and had no criminal record, Milliron said.

“The firearm, because it was loaded, causes me greater concern,” Milliron said.

Krol countered by reminding Milliron of the firearm’s location.

“It wasn’t even accessible to him. You’d have to open the hood and dislodge it from the engine,” Krol said.

Milliron took a different view.

“The firearm was loaded and intended to be ready for use when necessary,” he said.

Krol said he will file appeals.

Guzman-Garcia, through an interpreter, asked about bail. Milliron revoked it in September upon Guzman-Garcia’s conviction.

“I think he’s a flight risk,” Milliron said.

Court documents indicate Guzman-Garcia had a Harrisburg address when Blair Township police clocked him going almost 60 mph in a 45 mph zone on Old Route 220 near the Blair/Allegheny township line.

Once stopped, the officer saw Guzman-Garcia move from his driver’s seat to the back of his Dodge Durango, stuffing a coat behind the seat before returning to the front. Besides marijuana, police found $847 in the vehicle.

Police said Guzman-Garcia told them the marijuana was his and the cash was to be used for a truck payment.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.