MARTINEZ -- A major Bay Area methamphetamine distributor was convicted Friday for his role in a drug conspiracy and the 2004 slaying of two drug associates in West Contra Costa County.
Fairfield resident Jose Vega-Robles, 37, faces at least 75 years to life in prison. A jury found him guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit drug sales and attempted second-degree robbery, as well as charge enhancements for committing the crimes in association with criminal street gangs. He was acquitted of grand theft and residential burglary -- charges that were related to one of the homicides. His attorney had argued for a complete acquittal.
"This guy was not a street-corner dealer," Contra Costa County senior deputy district attorney Tom Kensok told jurors in his closing argument earlier this week. "He was the center of a ring: Things revolved around him."
For at least two years, Vega-Robles was importing methamphetamine, and sometimes cocaine, from Mexico in quantities of 20 to 30 pounds at a time, Kensok said. The drugs were distributed throughout the North Bay, from Santa Rosa to Antioch. Vega-Robles fled to Mexico sometime after early 2005 and was apprehended in Sonoma County in 2007. He was also prosecuted in federal court, but the heaviest charges were heard by the Contra Costa County jury.
One of the defendant's drug associates, 39-year-old Darryl Grockett, was killed as part of the conspiracy in Crockett on Oct.
Another drug associate, 29-year-old Marcelino Guzman-Mercado, was fatally shot Dec. 3, 2004, in unincorporated Richmond. It was not alleged that Vega-Robles personally took part in the killing; he was convicted under a conspiracy theory.
"This is a story about ruthlessness and greed," Kensok told jurors. "Anyone who got in their way suffered."
The defendant's brother, Sergio Vega-Robles, is awaiting trial on the same charges in the drug conspiracy and homicides. Another alleged associate, 38-year-old San Pablo resident Coby Phillips, is awaiting trial on charges in the drug conspiracy and Grockett's killing.
All three men face attempted murder charges related to a 2005 Richmond shooting.
Kensok said Friday's verdict shows that local law enforcement agencies are making inroads in large-scale drug rings involving violent gangs.
"We will take on challenging cases and will be successful by extending our reach by using conspiracy and gang tools," Kensok said.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.