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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Northern District of California

For Immediate Release

December 20, 2011

Melinda Haag, United States Attorney

Contact: Jack Gillund, Public Information Officer
(415) 436-6599

Two Operation Knockout Defendants Sentenced to Federal Prison for Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine

SAN JOSE, Calif. — A federal judge today sentenced Martin Montoya and Dakota Casperson to 19 and 18 years, respectively, in federal prison after they pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute methamphetamine as part of the conspiracy charged in Operation Knockout, United States Attorney Melinda Haag announced.

Montoya, 35, formerly of Salinas, Calif., and Casperson, 25, of Castroville, Calif., admitted in their plea agreements that they conspired to purchase one pound of methamphetamine on April 7, 2010, as part of the Salinas–based conspiracy. In addition, Montoya admitted that he was an organizer of the criminal conspiracy and Casperson admitted that he was a supervisor of the conspiracy.

Montoya and Casperson were sentenced by Senior U.S. District Court Judge D. Lowell Jensen in San Jose. Both men were also ordered to serve five years of supervised release upon their release from federal prison.

In Operation Knockout, agents from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA); and Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), teamed with agents from the State of California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement (BNE), California Highway Patrol (CHP), Monterey County Sheriff’s Office, the Salinas Police Department, and other state and local agencies, to investigate criminal street gangs in Salinas.

Montoya’s and Casperson’s sentences are the two longest imposed to date in the federal case, in which nine other defendants have been convicted and sentenced, including co–defendant Pablo Mendoza, who was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison on June 29, 2011 and co–defendant Jose Nuno, who was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison on Aug. 2, 2011. Additional defendants are being prosecuted by the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office.

The maximum statutory penalty for the drug distribution conspiracy charged in the Operation Knockout indictment is life imprisonment, with a statutory minimum sentence of 10 years for some of the charges in the indictment. The maximum fine is $4,000,000. However, any sentence following conviction is imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Allison Danner is the Assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting the Operation Knockout case with the assistance of legal technician Nina Williams. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, ATF, FBI, DEA, ICE HSI, and U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service. Federal agents teamed with agents from the State of California BNE, CHP, the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office, the Salinas Police Department, and the Monterey County Gang Task Force.

Further Information:

Case# CR 10–00301 DLJ

A copy of this press release may be found on the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s website at

Electronic court filings and further procedural and docket information are available at

Judges’ calendars with schedules for upcoming court hearings can be viewed on the court’s website at

All press inquiries to the U.S. Attorney’s Office should be directed to Jack Gillund at (415) 436–6599 or by e–mail at