Kingpin of mid-valley drug operation gets 18 years

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By Canda Fuqua
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Friday, August 30, 2013
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Rogelio Gonzalez-Martinez bragged to his cohorts that he was an elk, and when it came to catching drug dealers, cops could only snare the deer.

During testimony at Gonzalez-Martinez’s sentencing in Benton County Circuit Court on Friday, Special Agent Mike Wells of the Oregon Department of Justice described the defendant’s two wire-tapped phone calls on Feb. 22, 2012.

“During the conversation, he’s laughing; he’s referring to himself as the elk and that he always gets away,” Wells said.

Less than a month later, Gonzalez-Martinez and 26 others were arrested after investigators served more than three dozen search warrants in Benton, Linn and Marion counties and seized cash, firearms and drugs. Pounds of methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine were discovered buried at rural sites and in homes — including Gonzalez-Martinez’s — in what local and state investigating agencies referred to as “Operation Icebreaker 2.”

Characterized as the leader of the sophisticated operation, which imported drugs from Mexico and distributed them throughout the mid-valley, Gonzalez-Martinez was sentenced Friday to 18 years in prison and three years’ post-prison supervision.

In his testimony, Wells said that intercepted phone calls revealed that Gonzalez-Martinez was at the top of the drug network. He worked closely with his brother Abel Gonzalez-Martinez, who worked mostly with Juventino Santibanez-Castro. Identified as the second and third in command, the two each were sentenced last December to 10 years in prison.

The months-long investigation revealed that Rogelio Gonzalez-Martinez knew where the drugs were hidden and that he was alerted whenever drugs were running low or related problems were encountered, Wells said.

“There were 604 drug-related conversations that Rogelio had with other individuals (during the investigation),” Wells said.

Investigators listened to calls in real time, as the drug deals were unfolding.

‘More sophisticated’

Gonzalez-Martinez used code when he referred to business, he and others changed out their phones, and they performed counter-surveillance, such as driving in loops to make sure no one was following them. They hid drugs in rural locations, in some cases burying them in Linn and Benton county locations.

“They were better and more sophisticated than other cases that we investigated,” Wells said. “… Rogelio was very disciplined in what he did.”

Under the direction of Icebreaker 2 investigators, Oregon State Police pulled over and arrested Gonzalez-Martinez in March 2012 as he was driving north on Interstate 5 in Josephine County, Wells recounted. Based on intercepted phone calls, investigators suspected that he was running drugs — but they couldn’t find them, even after towing, dismantling and X-raying his vehicle.

Finally, after authorities agreed to release his wife — who was in custody in Linn County — Gonzalez-Martinez agreed to tell them where the drugs were. Heroin was stashed inside hollowed-out wooden legs of a wicker laundry basket in the trunk of his vehicle.

However, Gonzalez-Martinez’s attorney, Paul Ferder, argued that the drug operation was no more sophisticated than other drug rings, noting that the use of code words, stashing drugs in safe houses, changing out phones and other methods used in the operation are common practice in the drug-dealing business.

Ferder also questioned the investigators’ method of performing controlled drug purchases, which increased in quantity each time. The practice, he said, developed a position of trust that made a person sell more than he normally would.

“Then you use that substantial quantity to justify (a higher sentence),” he said. “I refer to that as sentencing entrapment.“

Ferder added that his client had no prior criminal history, and that that he was not being accused of carrying out violence related to drug dealing.

Prosecuting attorney Shannon Kmetic of the Department of Justice said that the defendant didn’t deserve a break.

“Mr. Gonzalez — he doesn’t use; he’s not an addict that we should feel sorry for,” she said. “He is a businessman who gets other people to become addicts that take a toll on this community.”

Gonzalez-Martinez didn’t speak during the proceeding. Members of his family were among the few who attended.

Judge Matthew Donohue gave Gonzalez-Martinez 10 years for a racketeering charge and eight years for the additional five charges related to dealing methamphetamine and heroin.

“This was an extensive organization that moved an exceptionally large quantity of drugs — both heroin and meth and cocaine, highly addictive drugs — into our community,” Donohue said as he delivered the sentence. “The defendant was basically the instrument. Without the defendant, I don’t see this organization being as successful as it could be because he was the main supplier.”

Woman sentenced for role in drug ring

A woman arrested last year in connection with the Icebreaker 2 drug bust was sentenced in Benton County Circuit Court on Friday to 31 months in prison and three years’ post-prison supervision for her part in the mid-valley drug operation.

Kim Cheryl Zib, 54, entered a no-contest plea to one count of racketeering as part of the agreement with prosecutors.

Zib had seven prior felony convictions and was recorded through a wiretap “accepting large amounts of drugs,” Benton County Chief Deputy District Attorney Christian Stringer said at her arraignment hearing last year.

Zib, who has a mailing address in Philomath, was arrested in July 2012 at her family’s residence in the Waterloo area outside of Lebanon, four months after a warrant for her arrest was issued.

Dozens of people were arrested in Benton, Linn and Marion counties as part of the drug bust. With Friday’s sentencing of Zib and the kingpin of the large-scale drug operation, Rogelio Gonzalez-Martinez, out of the way, the Benton County District Attorney’s Office has only one Icebreaker 2 case left to prosecute, Stringer said.

Stringer didn’t know the status of cases in Linn and Marion counties.

Rogelio Gonzalez-Martinez - ICE HOLD