California woman sentenced to life in Ky. meth case

A California woman was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday in federal court for participating in a methamphetamine conspiracy to distribute the drug in Grant and Pendleton counties.

Connie Avalos, 50, of Riverside, Calif., was convicted in August of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine. Three others pleaded guilty to the charge in August.

U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves sentenced Avalos to life in prison during sentencing Tuesday in federal court in Covington. Under federal law, a defendant will receive a mandatory life sentence for the conspiracy charge if he or she possesses two previous felony drug convictions.

This is the third case this decade prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office that resulted in a life sentence for a defendant on meth charges, according to the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

In the Avalos case, Terri Kelly, 49, of Rialto, Calif., was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Oshel Casto, 31, of Falmouth, and Michael Mason, 44, of Dry Ridge, were sentenced to 10 years each for the meth charge and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime.

Investigators say the distribution began in 2007 and continued through February 2009. Kelly purchased methamphetamine in California and sent it to Casto and Mason using U.S. mail, according to court documents and trial testimony. Casto and Mason then distributed the methamphetamine in Grant and Pendleton counties. The two wired money back to California that Avalos picked up and gave to Kelly to purchase more methamphetamine.