A Hawaiian Gardens man who admitted participating in a drug ring that packaged narcotics in children’s toys and shipped them to buyers on a secretive black market website was ordered into custody Friday to await sentencing.
Anh Pham, 48, pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to possess and distribute controlled substances, a felony carrying a possible decades-long sentence, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Prior to his plea, U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick J. Walsh granted Pham release from custody upon posting of a $150,000 appearance bond. The government filed for reconsideration last month, citing procedural rules that state the court must order the defendant detained because he was convicted and not yet sentenced for an offense carrying a possible prison term of at least 10 years.
Defense attorney David Reed countered that his client should be allowed to remain free pending his October sentencing hearing due to the high bond and his full compliance with all of the court’s conditions. Although prosecutors tagged Pham as the leader of the criminal organization, Reed said there were “significant issues” to explore at sentencing which would refute the allegation.
“It’d be crazy for him to go on the lam,” Reed told the judge in downtown Los Angeles.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Walsh determined that he had no choice in the matter and ordered Pham into custody, telling his clerk to call the U.S. marshal to escort the defendant into lockup. However, the judge changed his mind and allowed Pham to give himself up at the intake office a few floors below.
Pham was charged in January — along with Joseph Michael Gifford, 42, of La Crescenta, and Carlos Miguel Gallardo, 58, of Hawaiian Gardens — in connection with the darknet vendor Aeirla. Undercover federal agents purchased methamphetamine 26 times from the operation in 2017 and 2018, according to prosecutors.
Pham sold quantities of methamphetamine on the darknet while Gifford and Gallardo packaged them in toys, a beach ball, and boxes of Christmas cards and chocolates, and shipped them to customers nationwide, including to a customer in Pittsburgh who in reality was an undercover agent, court papers show.
Gifford and Gallardo pleaded guilty to the conspiracy count and were sentenced to terms of three years and one and a half years, respectively.
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