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Valley Center

February 27, 1988

Six members of the Donald Mason family plus a family friend entered guilty pleas Friday to various drug charges and agreed to forfeit property, cash and automobiles worth $1 million.

Donald Mason, 47, of San Marcos, pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to a conspiracy to possess methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.

Mason faces a maximum 7 1/2-year federal prison term and a fine of $62,500.

During a two-hour hearing, Mason told U.S. District Judge Gordon Thompson that his sons gave him $1 million in proceeds from methamphetamine sales.

"I was just holding (the money) for the kids," Mason said.

One son, Richard Mason, 24, of Valley Center, pleaded guilty to not reporting income on his 1985 income tax return and being an accessory-after-the-fact to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. He could receive 10 1/2 years in prison and a fine of $67,500.

Another son, Robert Mason, 27, of Valley Center, pleaded guilty to possession of 1 1/2 pounds of marijuana. He could receive one year in prison and a $5,000 fine.

"What were you going to do with that 1 1/2 pounds?" asked the judge.

"I was gonna smoke it," answered Robert.

Thompson set sentencing for April 25 for Donald, Robert and Richard Mason.

Ronald Mason, 26, of Escondido, also a son, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and could face a maximum sentence of 15 years and a $125,000 fine.

Richard Perez, 31, of Escondido, who is Donald Mason's stepson, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting two others in the drug conspiracy and being an ex-felon in possession of a handgun.

Perez could receive a 12 1/2-year prison term and a $67,500 fine. His sentencing is set for May 9.

Another stepson of Donald Mason, Benjamin Perez, 25, of San Marcos, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess and distribute marijuana. He could receive five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Salvador Vera, 30, of Valley Center, who is the manager of Donald Mason's business, Del Dios Auto Dismantlers in Escondido, pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. Vera could receive 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but the government will recommend no more than four years, said his attorney.

The government deferred prosecution for two other defendants, Joyce and Rebecca Mason. Joyce Mason, 48, of San Marcos, is Donald Mason's wife, and Rebecca Mason, 20, of Escondido, is his daughter-in-law.

Thompson set a March 1, 1990, court date in which their cases will be dismissed if they have no further violations of the law.

Three other defendants have hearings set for Monday and Tuesday. They include: Herbert McCall, 54, and Jody Jester, 42, both of Valley Center, and Elbry Spencer, 50, of Escondido.

It was the April 23, 1987, arrest of Spencer and Ronald Mason that began the investigation into the conspiracy. In a routine traffic stop, 100 pounds of methamphetamine worth millions of dollars was found in the pickup truck driven by the men in Valley Center.

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