6 sentenced in South Florida marijuana grow house operation: Santiesteban, Gonzalez and Manduley

By: Associated Press

MIAMI (AP) -- A half-dozen more people have been sentenced in a South Florida grow house operation that ended after the murder of a man suspected of stealing their marijuana, federal prosecutors said Monday.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami, Gilberto Santiesteban Jr., Darvis Santiesteban, Gilberto Santiesteban Sr., Tomy Gonzalez, Lisa Gonzalez and Norge Manduley were the latest batch to be sentenced.

The Santiestebans - Mariel boatlift refugee Gilberto Sr. and his sons Derrick, Gilberto Jr., Alexander and Darvis - were arrested last year and accused of operating hydroponic marijuana grow houses throughout the Miami-area since 2004. Authorities claimed the operation yielded more than 1,000 plants that produced millions in profits.

Their lucrative operation began to fall apart in June 2009 when several gunmen posing as police officers stole about 40 pounds of marijuana that Derrick Santiesteban and his wife Yadira had been preparing for transport to New York. Derrick Santiesteban recognized one of the robbers from surveillance video as Fidel Ruz Moreno. Derrick Santiesteban and Juan Felipe Castaneda, along with Norge Manduley and Gilberto Santiesteban Jr., kidnapped Ruz Moreno, who turned up dead three days later.

Authorities identified Manduley as the shooter, but a jury acquitted him of the killing this past spring. He was, however, convicted of conspiracy to possess marijuana plants with the intent to distribute, which earned him 20 years in the recent batch of sentencings. Gilberto Santiesteban Jr. received 30 years, while Darvis Santiesteban got nearly 22. Gilberto Santiesteban Sr. received 10 years. Tomy Gonzalez got 16 years, and Lisa Gonzalez got 12.

In May, Derrick Santiesteban was sentenced to life in prison for several charges, including kidnapping with death resulting, and Castaneda was sentenced to 30 years.

The 10 others previously sentenced for participating in the grow house operation are Alexander Santiesteban, Yadira Santiesteban, German Silvestro, David Silva, Francisco Javier Diaz, Alejandro Pimentel, John Villalonga, Raul Fabian Ramirez Jr., Dayana Castellanos and Estrella J. Mijares.