MOBILE, AL – After a two-day trial in United States District Court in Mobile, a federal jury on Wednesday, April 21, announced a guilty verdict against a man stopped on I-10 in Baldwin County in June 2020 and found in possession of about $400,000.00 worth of methamphetamine, also known as “ice”.
According to court documents and trial testimony, Enrique Miranda Martinez, 47, a Cuban national residing in Miami, accompanied by Yuir Maikel Hernandez Perez, 39, a Cuban national residing in Orlando, drove through Baldwin County on I-10 on the morning of June 23, 2020. A member of the Baldwin County Special Operations Division pulled over a Mercedes SUV driven by Martinez after he committed a traffic violation. The Special Operations Division is tasked with interdicting drug trafficking on I-10 and I-65, and are specially trained to look for signs that travelers may be engaged in drug trafficking.
After the Special Operations Officer approached the SUV’s passenger side, he noted that an ice chest on the back seat behind Martinez showed signs that its lining had been removed and replaced. Another member of the Special Operations Division joined the investigation to interview the passenger, Perez. The interviews of the Martinez and Perez yielded further clues that the pair had conflicting stories about their travels. A subsequent search of the SUV revealed that the ice chest had a secret compartment to transport methamphetamine, but was disguised as one holding only ice and drinks.
Further investigation revealed that Martinez had bought a vacuum sealer at a Tucson, Arizona, Wal Mart two days before the pair was stopped in Baldwin County. The approximately 8.2 pounds of methamphetamine—also known as “ice” due to its purity—found in the ice chest was vacuum sealed with the same brand of vacuum sealer that Martinez had bought in Arizona.
At trial, a DEA Special Agent testified that the evidence was consistent with drug smugglers going to a Tucson-area stash house to vacuum seal the methamphetamine to shrink it for further transportation back to the Miami, Florida, area, where someone could likely double their money as the price increases the further it travels from the border. The jury deliberated less than an hour before rendering their guilty verdict on the pair of charges against Martinez: Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute more than 50 grams of methamphetamine, and Possession with Intent to Distribute more than 50 grams of methamphetamine.
U. S Attorney Costello said, “This is a great example of effective coordination between federal and state law enforcement to stop drug traffickers from delivering their poison as they passed on I-10. I’m grateful for the excellent work of the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office and its Special Operations Division, and the DEA, as they work with our talented prosecutors to take drug smugglers and their product off the streets.”
The Court will sentence Martinez on July 21. He faces a mandatory minimum of ten years in prison to a maximum of life in prison and may also be subject to sentencing enhancements for testifying falsely at trial. Perez, who pleaded guilty the morning of trial, will be sentenced on July 18.
The case was investigated by the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Division, other investigators of the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Assistant United States Attorneys George May and Alex Lankford prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.