|Byron Chatfield, Assistant US Attorney
Department of Justice
Interstate 5 Traffic Stop and Drug Seizure Results in Lengthy Prison Sentences
Francisco Javier Romero-Perez, age 22, and Israel Garcia-Juarez, age 28, both from Portland, Oregon, were sentenced to federal prison for their roles in a conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Senior U.S. District Judge Owen M. Panner sentenced Romero-Perez yesterday to 210 months in prison and last month sentenced Garcia-Juarez to 135 months in prison. Romero-Perez pled guilty on September 29, 2010 to the conspiracy charge and Israel Garcia-Juarez pled guilty on August 9, 2010.
On February 10, 2010, Oregon State Police conducted an Interstate 5 traffic stop on Romero-Perez's vehicle outside of Ashland, Oregon. Garcia-Juarez was driving the vehicle and Romero-Perez along with another co-defendant yet to be sentenced, Aron Cervantes-Hernandez, age 33, from Bakersfield, California, were passengers. Romero-Perez had been convicted 15 days earlier in state circuit court in Portland for delivery of methamphetamine and he received a three year probationary sentence including 80 hours of community service.
During the traffic stop, Oregon State Police conducted a search of the vehicle and discovered a specially designed and hidden compartment in the rear wheel well area. Officers first noticed what appeared to be something concealed in the wheel well frame, but were unable to reach it from inside the vehicle. After they removed the rear wheel and a special covering built onto the wheel well area, they were able to reach a hidden compartment where they discovered five packages of methamphetamine. The packages were wrapped in various types of material preventing them from being detected by law enforcement drug detection canines. All three defendants were arrested and taken into state custody.
Oregon State Police laboratory analysis revealed that the five packages contained over five pounds of methamphetamine with an extremely high purity level of over 90 percent. The analysis also revealed latent fingerprints from all of the defendants on the packaging material.
Subsequent investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement determined that the methamphetamine was wrapped and packaged by all three defendants, as well as others, at Cervantes-Hernandez's residence and concealed in the hidden compartment in Romero-Perez's vehicle. The methamphetamine was to be delivered to the Portland area where it was to be distributed.
Both Romero-Perez and Garcia-Juaraz have remained in custody following their February arrest. Cervantes-Hernandez has also remained in custody since his arrest and, as a result of his guilty plea to the same conspiracy charge on October 4, 2010, is scheduled to be sentenced in Federal District Court in Medford on January 10, 2011.
The case was investigated by the Oregon State Police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Byron Chatfield prosecuted the case.