Pubdate: Thu, 19 Jan 2017
Source: State, The (SC)
Copyright: 2017 The State
Author:  Michael Doyle


President Barack Obama on Thursday commuted the 20-year prison
sentenced imposed on Richard Ruiz Montes, convicted in 2008 for his
role in the Modesto's pot-dealing California Healthcare Collective.

In one of his final presidential acts, Obama used his executive
authority to cut Montes' sentence by more than half. Now held at a
federal facility in Atwater, according to the Bureau of Prisons'
inmate locator, the 36-year-old Montes will be released May 19.

He is identified as Richard by the White House and Bureau of Prisons,
but has also been known as Ricardo. The White House listed his
hometown as Escalon.

His original sentence would have kept Montes incarcerated through
September 2025, following his conviction on charges of conducting a
continuing criminal enterprise, manufacture of marijuana and
possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and related charges.

His partner with California Healthcare Collective, Luke Scarmazzo, was
not included on the list of 330 commutations issued Thursday.
Scarmazzo is being held at Mendota Federal Correctional Institution
and is set for release in 2027, according to the Bureau of Prisons.

The two men were operating a medical marijuana dispensary, which took
in a reported $6 million to $9 million in less than two years, before
their arrests.

Scarmazzo and Montes said they never intended to break the law. They
obtained a business license, paid taxes and made sure patients had
doctors' notes before purchases.

The latest actions brought the total number of commutations granted by
President Obama to 1,715.

"We are grateful to President Obama for the historically large number
of grants in a single round and in total," said Cynthia W. Roseberry,
project manager for Clemency Project 2014, which has advocated for
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