Meth smuggler receives 5-year prison sentence

Article author: 
Tristan Hiegler
Article publisher: 
Herald and News
Article date: 
Thursday, October 2, 2014
Article category: 
Oregon Issues
Article Body: 

One of two suspects accused of trying to transport 22 pounds of methamphetamine through Klamath County received a five-year prison sentence Wednesday.

The other suspect’s sentence, whether it involves prison time or probation, has yet to be determined.

Sandra Guillen-Avila, 39, and Jeronimo Novoa-Leal, 24, were arrested in October 2013 by Oregon State Police (OSP) troopers after a traffic stop on Highway 97.

During a search of the vehicle utilizing an OSP drug detection dog, 22 pounds of crystal meth and $5,000 in cash was found. The illegal narcotic was stashed in several small bags secreted around the vehicle.

Novoa-Leal had apparently hired Guillen-Avila and paid her $1,000 to drive him from Riverside, Calif., to Washington, where the drugs would be sold. Guillen-Avila is listed as a Quincy, Wash., resident, and Novoa-Leal is noted to have lived in Antioch, Calif.

District Attorney Rob Patridge noted during the Wednesday morning sentencing hearing the bust might be one of the largest single methamphetamine seizures on a state highway in recent Klamath Falls history — maybe even across the state.

“It’s really important, I think, we send a message from this case that we will not tolerate this coming into our community,” Patridge said.

The specifics of whether the suspects would receive probation or prison time became a point of contention during the hearing. While both pleaded guilty this summer, how exactly they should be punished was not finalized until the day of sentencing.

Two pre-sentencing investigations were completed for Novoa-Leal, who pleaded guilty to meth possession and delivery July 16. One investigation recommended only probation, while the second recommended a 60-month prison sentence.

The 60-month (five-year) sentence was imposed by Judge Marci Adkisson. It was noted in court Novoa-Leal was in the country illegally and he would be deported to Mexico upon his release from prison.

Adkisson expressed her objections to anything other than prison for the suspects during the hearing.

“I think they’re liars, I think they’re both liars. Both these people are going to the penitentiary,” Adkisson said. “It’s just over the top that we would even consider not punishing this crime.”

Patridge seconded Adkisson’s statement in a press release.

“Judge Adkisson put an exclamation point on the sentencing this morning by telling the defendant that she knew he was lying and chastised him for failing to take responsibility,” Patridge said. “Judge Adkisson and I are on the same page. If you are going to use Oregon to traffick drugs, we’re not just going to turn you around and send you back home to Mexico on a one way ticket ... we are going to hold you accountable and send you to jail here in Oregon to pay the price for the crimes you have committed while illegally in the United States and here in Oregon.”

The judge did agree to postpone sentencing Guillen-Avila so her defense attorney could present more evidence on her character and her actual involvement in the incident.

Guillen-Avila pleaded guilty to meth possession and delivery, as well as possession of a forged instrument, in July.

“I do not believe she was an innocent victim here,” Adkisson said, allowing her sentencing hearing date to be set for 3 p.m. Oct. 23.

Patridge, in an interview after the hearing, said the street value of the methamphetamine located within the vehicle was more than $1.1 million. He noted, “These are definitely cartel-related drugs.”