PORTLAND — A judge on Wednesday sentenced a Boston man, who was bound for Lewiston in 2018 with $30,000 in cash and a loaded handgun, to just over a year in prison for his connection to an illegal medical marijuana operation centered in the Twin Cities.

Yehudi Pardo, 35, had hoped to escape incarceration and be given only probation, Boston defense attorney William Gens said during a videoconference sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court.

Pardo pleaded guilty in February to attempting to buy marijuana with intent to distribute it, a Class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison

In his plea agreement, Pardo had waived his right to appeal any prison sentence of 13 months or less.

Judge George Z, Singal imposed on Wednesday a sentence of one year and one day, plus three years of supervised release.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Joyce told the judge that Pardo should spend time behind bars because he was carrying a loaded firearm when he was stopped by police on his way to Lewiston to buy marijuana derivatives to take back to Massachusetts to sell.

Joyce said the case was “somewhat baffling” because Pardo had a “well-paying job” working in southwestern oil fields for roughly eight years.

Gens said Pardo shouldn’t be incarcerated because this was his first brush with the law. There was no indication the gun had been used in the execution of the crime, which had been victimless. And the criminal activity Pardo had engaged in existed on the criminal periphery of an otherwise legal enterprise akin to ticket scalping, a so-called “gray market,” Gens said.

But Judge Singal disagreed, pointing to wiretap communications between Pardo and Lewiston resident Timmy Bellmore, who pleaded guilty in January to a felony drug charge for manufacturing with intent to distribute as well as tax evasion.

Bellmore is facing between five and 40 years in prison.

The case is connected to a 2018 drug sweep throughout the Twin Cities area that had agents executing 20 search warrants in Androscoggin County, netting more than a dozen defendants who were later indicted.

Singal said the intercepted exchanges suggested an ongoing criminal relationship between Pardo and Bellmore where code words were used to describe their criminal activities.

According to court papers, Pardo texted Bellmore on Feb. 15, 2018, to order 250 small marijuana plants called “clones.”

A week later, agents watched by surveillance camera Pardo arriving at one of Bellmore’s Lewiston businesses, which prosecutors later said was used to launder drug proceeds.

That night, Pardo texted Bellmore to order “four pizzas and 3,000 pens.”

Pizza referred to pizza boxes that contained marijuana extract known as “dabs” or “shatter,” prosecutors said. Pens referred to smoking cartridges that contained marijuana extract liquid used in vaping devices.

Two days later, Pardo was northbound on the Maine Turnpike in his Toyota Tundra pickup truck for which Maine State Police had been on the lookout

A state canine officer pulled over the truck for speeding. A drug agent who had been monitoring Pardo’s activities and knew of his texts with Bellmore told the trooper there was probable cause to stop Pardo’s truck.

The trooper seized roughly $30,000 in cash from a satchel on the back seat as well as a handgun from the truck’s glove compartment. The trooper’s dog detected a backpack with marijuana residue.

Pardo told the trooper the cash was intended for the purchase of a Jeep for his sister.

Defense attorneys later sought to have the cash and gun suppressed as evidence, but a judge ruled against them.

Pardo told the judge he was remorseful for his actions and that he was a very hardworking American who put in as many as 90 hours a week.

“I simply made a wrong choice out of greed,” he said.

A longtime volunteer in his community, Pardo said going to prison would take him away from his son.

When Singal asked him why he decided to become a drug dealer, Pardo said he didn’t perceive his actions as drug dealing.

He said he was seeking additional income so he wouldn’t have to travel for work as much and be away from home and his son.

Singal asked Pardo whether he had considered the damage he had inflicted on the youth at the clubs where he volunteered, serving as a role model and mentor while, at the same time, behaving as a criminal.

In handing down his sentence, Singal said he didn’t believe Pardo had been honest in his admission of guilt.

“You’re not really accepting guilt in this case,” Singal said.

“You knew what drug dealing was,” Singal said. “Your father was a drug dealer.”

He said Pardo “certainly knew that drug dealing was wrong.”

Pardo said he aimed to “break the cycle” of criminal behavior so his son wouldn’t follow in his and his father’s footsteps.

U.S. District Court of Maine in Portland Christopher Williams/Sun Journal

Comments are not available on this story.