A pair of siblings convicted of attempting to bribe a sheriff in Siskiyou County, California, received different punishments during their sentence hearing on Tuesday.
Chi Meng Yang, 36, of Montague, Siskiyou County, and Gaosheng Laitinen, 41, of St. Paul, Minnesota, were sentenced for their bribery attempt aimed at protecting family marijuana grows from local authorities.
Yang, who was convicted of manufacturing over 100 marijuana plants and trying to bribe then-Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey back in March, was sentenced to five years and 11 months in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release.
U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez believed Yang lied throughout the trial, particularly after he tried to accuse Lopey of devising the scheme himself.
“I don’t believe anything he says,” Mendez said during the sentencing, noting that he believed Yang influenced his sister into joining his plan.
Meanwhile, Laitinen, who pleaded guilty of conspiring to commit bribery and conspiracy to manufacture marijuana in February, was sentenced to time served and a $50,000 fine to be followed by two years of supervised release.
Mendez believes Laitinen had little to do with the scheme, saying “I have no concerns about Ms. Laitinen re-offending.” He then addressed her directly: “Don’t let me down.”
Prior to his trial, Yang rejected plea bargain negotiations, including one that would have recommended a sentence of time served. It was his insistence to go to court.
Court documents revealed that Yang first visited Lopey in May 2017 and offered to provide a $1 million contribution to a charity of the sheriff’s choosing in exchange for “friendship” and assistance in making medical marijuana legal in Missouri.
After Lopey allerted the FBI, agents ran a sting operation. Throughout the investigation, Yang and Lopey met seven times. Yang and Laitinen handed out envelopes of money meant to keep authorities and raids away from their eight grow sites.
Agents raided the properties after Yang was apprehended in Aug. 2017 and found 1,168 marijuana plants.
Yang’s attempt to implicate Lopey as the mastermind of the scheme faltered during cross examination.
In their sentencing memorandum, Assistant U.S. Attorneys James Connolly and Aaron Pennekamp wrote that “far from taking responsibility for his crimes, he chose to double down — telling outright lies on the witness stand about his behavior, and concocting a fantastical story about how he was just playing a ‘role’ in Sheriff Lopey’s bribery racket.”