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Press Release

California Man Convicted of Drug Trafficking Charge

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Alabama

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – A federal jury on Wednesday convicted a California man on a drug trafficking charge, announced U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona and Drug Enforcement Administration Assistant Special Agent in Charge Towanda Thorne-James.

The jury returned its guilty verdict against Esteban Roberto Ortiz, 43, after three days of testimony before U.S. District Court Judge Sharon L. Blackburn.  Ortiz was convicted on the sole count of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and marijuana.  The jury also returned a special verdict that the offense involved more than 500 grams of methamphetamine, for which Ortiz will face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years.  

“This conviction sends a message to those who traffic illegal drugs across state lines to distribute in our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Escalona. “I commend the exemplary work of our law enforcement partners in identifying, infiltrating, and dismantling this multi-jurisdiction drug trafficking operation.”

“Methamphetamine is a destructive poison that can cause terrible harm to the quality of life in any community,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Towanda Thorne-James.  The successful conviction of Esteban Roberto Ortiz should put on notice those who engage in trafficking meth.  “Side by side with our local and federal law enforcement partners, DEA is holding meth dealers accountable. We are seizing their profits, shutting down their distribution networks, and putting dealers where they belong- behind bars.”

Evidence at trial proved that Ortiz conspired with others to transport approximately 11 pounds of methamphetamine and 4 pounds of marijuana from California to Alabama. Ortiz coordinated couriers to travel to Alabama in a vehicle containing an after-market hidden compartment where the methamphetamine and marijuana were stored. Agents from DEA Oklahoma City and DEA Birmingham coordinated a controlled delivery of this car to Alabaster, Alabama, to meet Ortiz where he was taken into custody.  Evidence at trial further showed that, ahead of the vehicle’s arrival, Ortiz was planning for the distribution of these drugs to a network of drug associates in Alabama.

The maximum penalty for possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and marijuana is life in prison.

The DEA investigated the case.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Allison Garnett and Ryan Rummage are prosecuting the case. 

Updated February 17, 2023

Drug Trafficking