SANTA ANA, California – Two Riverside County brothers who ran a drug trafficking operation that used two Orange County-based call centers that took telephone orders for deliveries of the drug, which resulted in one fatal overdose, each were sentenced today to 288 months in federal prison.
Julio Cesar Martinez, 45, a.k.a. “Primo,” of Riverside, and Victor Martinez, 46, a.k.a. “Hector,” of Hemet, were sentenced by United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney in separate hearings.
Each Martinez brother pleaded guilty on August 16 to one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin.
“These two brothers took drug dealing to another level by operating a heroin-delivery service that profited on the addiction and affliction of others,” said United States Attorney Martin Estrada. “While they and their families lived lavishly, these defendants ignored the destruction they caused in our community. Today’s sentence sends a clear message that we will not stand for misconduct of this sort.”
From at least 2003 to July 2021, the two brothers ran a drug trafficking organization that imported heroin from Mexico into the United States by couriers who concealed the drug, sometimes in their body cavities, to Orange County. Once the heroin arrived in Orange County, Julio Martinez oversaw its distribution to various call centers that he also supervised. He also oversaw its distribution to customers.
After a customer placed a heroin order, Martinez and his accomplices arranged for the drug’s delivery using “runners,” who were directed to deliver the heroin and take the customer’s payment.
Martinez and other conspirators used coded language on the telephone while engaging in drug distribution activity. For example, the organization’s code word for heroin was “food” and its code word for one gram of heroin was “taco.”
In December 2016, a customer who purchased heroin over the telephone from Martinez’s drug trafficking organization died of acute polydrug intoxication, including heroin.
The brothers admitted in their plea agreements to distributing at least 29 kilograms of heroin onto the streets of Orange County.
To conceal the source of the income the organization generated, Julio Cesar Martinez and Victor Martinez caused the deposit of the heroin sales proceeds into bank accounts held by other conspirators. The Martinez brothers ordered their co-conspirators to structure the deposits into the bank accounts to evade federal reporting requirements by depositing the money at different banks and by breaking the deposits up into amounts $10,000 and under. The brothers used the proceeds to purchase cars and homes and to fund their lifestyles.
“Operation 'Horse Caller' targeted all levels of this international drug trafficking network, ranging from suppliers in Mexico to mules and runners delivering drugs to customers in Orange County at the direction of the Martinez brothers,” said Donald Alway, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office. “Federal and local law enforcement agencies working in partnership led to the dismantling of the Martinez brothers' network and closed off a main pipeline of the heroin supply in Orange County that operated for years and led to deadly consequences.”
“The Martinez brothers’ efforts to conceal their drug trafficking activities by attempting to exploit minimum bank reporting requirements was to no avail,” said Special Agent in Charge Tyler Hatcher, IRS Criminal Investigation, Los Angeles Field Office. “This well-coordinated investigation is yet another example of the effectiveness of our partnerships with fellow law enforcement agencies in bringing these criminals to justice.”
Federal prosecutors have secured 16 convictions in this case.
The FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation investigated this matter. The Orange County Sheriff's Department, the Newport Beach Police Department, the Costa Mesa Police Department, the Huntington Beach Police Department, the Oxnard Police Department, the California Highway Patrol and March Air Reserve Base provided substantial assistance.
Assistant United States Attorney Kevin J. Butler of the Violent and Organized Crime Section prosecuted this case. Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan S. Galatzan of the Asset Forfeiture and Recovery Section is handling the forfeiture portion of the case.
This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.