California heroin dealers who used code words like ‘taco’ in phone orders get 24 years in prison

Dec 19, 2023, 5:34 PM

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — Two Southern California brothers who ran a heroin-delivery operation — taking telephone orders from customers using code words like “taco” — have been sentenced to 24 years each in federal prison, prosecutors announced.

Julio Cesar Martinez, 45, of Riverside, and Victor Martinez, 46, of Hemet, parts of California’s sprawling Inland Empire, were sentenced Monday. Both pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy to distribute heroin and acknowledged distributing at least 29 kilograms (64 pounds) of the drug in Orange County, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office.

The ring operated from at least September 2003 to July 2021 and sold heroin that was smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico by couriers who sometimes hid the drug in their body cavities, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Call centers run out of workers’ homes handled orders from buyers who used the names of Mexican foods to buy drugs. A gram of heroin was a “taco” and an ounce (a little over 28 grams) was an “enchilada,” authorities said.

Runners then delivered the order and took payment.

One customer died in 2016 in Orange County from overdosing on heroin and other drugs, prosecutors said.

Other members of the ring placed the money in bank accounts in deposits of $10,000 or less to evade federal reporting requirements, prosecutors said.

“These two brothers took drug dealing to another level by operating a heroin-delivery service that profited on the addiction and affliction of others,” U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said in the statement. “While they and their families lived lavishly, these defendants ignored the destruction they caused in our community. Today’s sentence sends a clear message that we will not stand for misconduct of this sort.”

The brothers were among more than a dozen people targeted under what authorities called “Operation Horse Caller,” a five-year federal effort to dismantle the ring.

Prosecutors said that so far, sixteen people have been convicted because of the effort.

National News

Associated Press

Former California water official pleads guilty to conspiring to steal water from irrigation canal

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A former California water official has pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal water in a deal with federal prosecutors in the state’s crop-rich Central Valley. The Los Angeles Times reports Tuesday that 78-year-old Dennis Falaschi, who used to head the Panoche Water District, entered the plea in federal court in Fresno. […]

4 minutes ago

Associated Press

Prosecutors build their case at bribery trial of Sen. Bob Menendez with emails and texts

NEW YORK (AP) — Prosecutors were presenting their bribery case against New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez drip-by-drip on Tuesday, showing jurors a steady stream of documents, emails and phone records that they’ll explain more thoroughly later in the trial. The evidence was being shown to Manhattan federal court jurors through the testimony of an FBI […]

6 minutes ago

Associated Press

Authorities urge proper cooking of wild game after 6 relatives fall ill from parasite in bear meat

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reaffirmed the importance of properly cooking wild game after six people became sick from a parasite traced to undercooked bear meat that was served at a family reunion in South Dakota. The six — one in South Dakota, four in Minnesota and one […]

30 minutes ago

Associated Press

Pilot injured after a military aircraft crashes near international airport in Albuquerque

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A military aircraft crashed Tuesday near the international airport in New Mexico’s largest city, sending up a large plume of smoke and injuring the pilot. The pilot, the only person on board, was able to escape after crashing around 2 p.m. on the south side of the airport and was taken […]

60 minutes ago

Associated Press

Reno police officer who accidentally shot suspect pulled trigger when hit by another officer’s Taser

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A Reno police officer accidentally shot an unarmed suspect in 2020 when he flinched and pulled the trigger on his service revolver in an inadvertent response to being stuck by a Taser fired by another officer, a prosecutor said Tuesday. Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks cleared Officer Richard Jager of […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Michigan State Police trooper charged with second-degree murder in death of Kentwood man

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan State Police trooper who drove his unmarked SUV into a 25-year-old Kentwood man that was fleeing from police has been charged with second-degree murder. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the charges against Detective Sergeant Brian Keely on Tuesday after Michigan State Police earlier this month concluded their investigation […]

2 hours ago

California heroin dealers who used code words like ‘taco’ in phone orders get 24 years in prison