By chris conrad
A pair of large-scale methamphetamine traffickers arrested in Jackson County last year could not escape steep federal prison sentences after attempting to rush plea deals through state court that carry shorter incarceration terms, officials said.
The suspects were arrested while driving on Interstate 5 in March of 2011. The two were arrested by the Oregon State Police in unrelated incidents, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
On March 16, an OSP trooper stopped Jamie Eugene Muniz, 28, from Sacramento, on the freeway near Ashland. A search of his car turned up 10 pounds of meth wrapped in eight packages and hidden in a secret compartment in the center console. The estimated street value of the meth was $600,700.
The meth was destined for sale in the Portland area, officials said.
Four days later, an OSP trooper stopped a car driven by Francisco Hernandez-Figueroa, 29, of San Rafael, Mexico, on the freeway near Medford.
A search of the car found that it had been wired with an electronic activation system leading to two hidden compartments located behind the side panels in the rear passenger compartment. A switch hidden in the steering column opened the secret compartments, revealing 16 packages wrapped in black duct tape.
A total of 15 pounds of high-quality meth, with a street value of $870,000, was packed in the compartments.
Troopers also found $4,500 in $100 bills, believed to be proceeds from drug trafficking. The meth was bound for Seattle, officials said.
Law enforcement found that Hernandez-Figueroa had illegally entered the country with the intent of selling the large haul of meth.
Within a few days of their arrest both men demanded to plead guilty to the drug charges in state court. Their defense attorney advised them to do so to avoid a possible longer federal sentence, officials said.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office had not reviewed the cases by the time each entered guilty pleas in state court, officials said.
Both were sentenced to nearly five years in Oregon prison, officials said.
However, this did not stop federal prosecutors from pursuing drug-trafficking crimes against the men. U.S. District Judge Owen Panner then sentenced Hernandez-Figueroa to 10 years in federal prison, while Muniz received five years of federal time.
The sentences will be served concurrently with the state convictions, officials said.
“These were some of the largest seizures of nearly 100 percent pure methamphetamine in Southern Oregon,” said Amanda Marshall, U.S. Attorney for Oregon, in a news release. “The Department of Justice authorized our prosecution because the state convictions and sentences did not adequately vindicate the interest the United States has in prosecuting major drug traffickers.”
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.