SALT LAKE CITY – Travis Javier Cruz, age 38, of the Salt Lake City area, who traveled to California in October 2014 to pick up 73.8 pounds of methamphetamine from a supplier destined for distribution in Salt Lake City, will serve 198 months in federal prison. Cruz pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in May.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby imposed the sentence last week in federal court. He also ordered Cruz to be on supervised release for 60 months after he finishes his prison sentence. Cruz also will forfeit three vehicles and $3,698 in U.S. currency.
As a part of the plea agreement reached with federal prosecutors, Cruz admitted that he traveled to the Orange County area of California on Oct. 28, 2014, to pick up a large quantity of methamphetamine for distribution in the Salt Lake City area. According to a complaint filed in the case, Cruz was already under surveillance by the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force, in conjunction with the Salt Lake Unified Police Department, the Davis County Sheriff’s Office, and other law enforcement agencies prior to making the trip to California. Law enforcement agents believed that Cruz was running a major methamphetamine distribution ring in the Salt Lake Valley.
Cruz arrived at a hotel in Huntington Beach, where the narcotics transaction would take place, with approximately $300,000 in cash to pay for 70 pounds of narcotics. Cruz admitted meeting with a courier for the methamphetamine source of supply at the hotel on Oct. 28, 2014, and giving him $300,000.
The next day, according to the plea agreement, the courier returned to the hotel with five or six five-gallon buckets. He took the buckets into Cruz’s room. The buckets contained the methamphetamine Cruz planned to distribute in the Salt Lake City area. Cruz admitted that he and others packaged the methamphetamine into plastic wrap and mustard to transport it back to Salt Lake City. The narcotics were placed in a roller bag and two backpacks and loaded into the trunk of the Cruz’s car for transportation back to Salt Lake City.
Agents and officers, who had been conducting surveillance at the hotel, conducted a vehicle stop after the narcotics were loaded in the car. A dog alerted to the presence of narcotics in the trunk of the vehicle. Cruz admitted as a part of the plea agreement that the amount of narcotics recovered was approximately 73.8 pounds. On the same day, officers executed a federal search warrant at a storage unit in Utah and recovered approximately 1.5 pounds of methamphetamine. Cruz admitted it was his intent to distribute the methamphetamine in the Salt Lake City area.
Federal prosecutors argued for a sentence of 252 months in the case, pointing out that Cruz admitted he had made the trip to California for drugs on at least one other occasion and that evidence suggests he has done it on a number of occasions. “Indeed, one could extrapolate, based on the evidence, that Mr. Cruz is responsible for hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine distributed in the Salt Lake Valley. His actions have been seriously destructive to the community, and his sentence should reflect that seriousness,” they wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed in the case. Cruz also has previous criminal history including three convictions related to the operation of a clandestine lab.
“Mr. Cruz pleaded guilty to what appears to be his fourth narcotics trafficking offense. A substantial sentence is clearly warranted given his extensive criminal history as well as the large amount of methamphetamine trafficked in this case” prosecutors told the court.
Cruz was charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in November 2014.