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Two sentenced for running heroin ring

Two cousins with ties to a violent Southern California gang were sentenced Monday to lengthy federal prison terms for running a ring that sold more than $2 million worth of heroin locally before it was broken up last fall.

Ismael "Chivo" Anaya, 28, was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Medford to 21 years and eight months in prison, while cousin Eliot "Alex" Delavirgen, 33, was sentenced to 13 years and four months in federal prison.

Senior U.S. District Judge Owen Panner also ordered the forfeiture of two vehicles, jewelry and more than $840,000 seized as illegal profits for selling a smokable version of the narcotic to mid-level dealers for distribution.

The pair were the top targets in police's "Operation Goat Rope" last fall that used informants and federal wiretaps to break up the large heroin-trafficking organization centered in Medford for two years beginning in mid-2007.

A mid-level drug trafficker in the ring, 22-year-old Jerrett Michael Hooey of Talent, was also sentenced Monday to more than eight years in federal prison for his role in pushing the dangerous narcotic known as "goat" and responsible for more Oregon deaths than methamphetamine and cocaine combined.

Monday's sentencing brings to eight the conspirators who pleaded guilty in federal court to being part of the ring blamed by police for a tripling of heroin-related overdoses and arrests while it was entrenched in Southern Oregon.

"It's pay-back time for the number of lives destroyed by heroin here," said Deputy Chief Tim George of the Medford Police Department, which was joined by other local and federal authorities in the investigation.

"That's the beauty of federal prosecution and having the FBI involved," George said. "You can really spank them."

Federal authorities claimed in court filings that the group each month funneled about 2 pounds of heroin worth more than $100,000 locally.

They allegedly bought the heroin in bulk from sources elsewhere in Oregon as well as California and Mexico, then broke it down into 25-gram "piece" sizes for distribution.

Court records fingered Anaya as the head of the organization until an Oregon State Police trooper on June 3, 2009, stopped Anaya driving a vehicle that contained about $13,000 in cash identified as proceeds from heroin sales.

Six days later, Anaya was taped in a wiretap telling Delavirgen that he temporarily had to oversee the operation.

The investigation culminated in a massive Oct. 4 raid by 160 law enforcement officials at various residences in and around Medford.

"We said all along this operation was good for 50 percent of the heroin traffic in the region," George said. "It hasn't filled back in, but there's still heroin out there."

Panner has handed down five other sentences to Operation Goat Rope defendants who pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin.

Anthony Aaron Albert, 46, of Eagle Point and 21-year-old Shannon Christopher Harrop of Talent were each sentenced to 70 months in federal prison, while Judith Ann Potteiger, 28, of Roseville, Calif., was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

Ronald James Coutee, 55, of Medford, pleaded guilty to the heroin offense as well as being a felon in possession of a weapon. Panner sentenced him to 100 months in prison.

Erica Ann Lapizco, 31, of Medford, earlier was sentenced to 60 months in federal prison for her role in supplying smaller amounts of heroin to Anaya in September 2009 when his primary source of heroin was temporarily cut off, court filings state.

Mark Freeman is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach him at 541-776-4470, or e-mail at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.