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Repeat Drug Trafficker Sentenced to Lengthy Prison Term

Hwy-97 Traffic Stop and Drug Seizure Leads to Prison for Illegal Alien

May 14, 2012

MEDFORD, Ore. - Omar Cuevas-Vasquez, 34, from Michoacan, Mexico was sentenced to federal prison for possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute it and illegally reentering the United States. Senior U.S. District Judge Owen M. Panner sentenced Cuevas-Vasquez to 188 months in prison for the drug trafficking offense and 120 months for illegally reentering the United States following an earlier deportation; both sentences to be served concurrently. Judge Panner also sentenced Martin Mendoza, 22, from Los Banos, California to 36 months in prison for his role in possessing methamphetamine with intent to distribute it.

On February 2, 2011, the Oregon State Police stopped a vehicle for a traffic violation on Highway 97, north of Klamath Falls, Oregon. Martin Mendoza was driving the vehicle and Omar Cuevas-Vasquez was a passenger. They were both traveling from Los Banos, California to the state of Washington. During the traffic stop, officers conducted a search of the vehicle and discovered a specially designed and hidden compartment between the rear seat and trunk. The hidden compartment contained six vacuum-sealed packages containing methamphetamine, each wrapped in cellophane, duct tape, fabric softener, baby powder and pepper. A subsequent detailed search of the entire vehicle revealed a comprehensive wiring system that triggered a piston to unlock the trunk latch and trigger a trap door to open the hidden compartment.

Subsequent laboratory analysis of the drugs revealed an extremely high purity level with over 4 1/2 pounds of pure methamphetamine. Likewise, an analysis also revealed latent fingerprints of Cuevas-Vasquez on the packaging material. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents determined that the methamphetamine was to be delivered to the Sunnyside and Yakama areas of Washington where it was to be distributed.

Cuevas-Vasquez was previously convicted of drug trafficking in 2000 in the Eastern District of Washington. At that time, Cuevas-Vasquez was trafficking in methamphetamine and cocaine. Cuevas-Vasquez received a 24-month federal prison sentence and was thereafter deported from the United States. A short time later, Cuevas-Vasquez returned illegally to the United States and again engaged in drug trafficking activities in vastly larger quantities of methamphetamine. The investigation determined that Mendoza was brought into the drug trafficking scheme for the limited purpose of helping drive the vehicle to Washington on the one occasion.

The case was investigated by the Oregon State Police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Byron Chatfield.

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