Earlier police action reduces current drug use | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Earlier police action reduces current drug use

Gregory Crofton

A year after a huge bust, one man who supplied a methamphetamine ring at South Lake Tahoe has an eight-year prison sentence and another is expected to receive a similar punishment.

The meth sold at South Shore came from Modesto and Santa Rosa, Calif. Law enforcement seized and purchased an estimated 10 pounds of the drug during an eight-month wiretap investigation.

Juan Manuel Garcia-Aguilar, 43, who supplied the drug out of Modesto, pleaded guilty and has been sentenced to eight years in prison. Sentencing of a supplier from Santa Rosa is expected soon.

SLEDNET, South Shore’s multiagency drug enforcement team, arrested Garcia-Aguilar in July at a McDonald’s parking lot in Lodi, Calif., with a pound of meth.

He is one of 21 people arrested in a sting last May. All but three defendants have pleaded guilty to possessing and conspiring to sell the drug.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Grad dropped charges against two people and she may go to trial in one case.

That case pertains to Luis Martinez, a man accused of coordinating methamphetamine sales at South Shore. Authorities say they seized a pound-and-a-half of meth from Martinez’s car. He has a trial date set for July 23, but Grad hopes he will enter a guilty plea before then. If Martinez is found guilty by a jury, he could be sentenced to 16 years in prison. If he pleads out, Grad said Martinez would spend 12 to 14 years in prison.

“For the most part we have strong cases,” Grad said. “Because the level of narcotics were big, and it was a fairly large organization, that’s why we did a wiretap on the case.”

Grad said people who played a lesser role in the drug ring received two-to-four-year sentences. A judge ordered several defendants who had no prior criminal record into drug treatment programs.

SLEDNET Task Force Commander Christopher Elliott believes last year’s meth bust has made a difference at South Shore.

“You can tell there’s been a shift, a noticeable impact in availability of the drug,” he said. “We’re starting to see more cocaine now.”

But meth busts are still happening at South Shore. Elliott said SLEDNET made two in April. In a home at Tamarack Avenue and Blackwood Road they confiscated a quarter-pound of the drug. They also seized a pound of meth from a Round Hill resident. Elliott believes that man may have provided to the South Shore up to 30 pounds of meth in one year.

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