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Man caught with 3 pounds of meth gets 14 years

A man stopped on Interstate 5 near Ashland a year ago in a car carrying 3 pounds of methamphetamine has been sentenced to 14 years in prison, federal court records show.

On July 5, Senior U.S. District Judge Owen M. Panner sentenced Santiago Contreras-Esquivel, 33, of Modesto, Calif., to 14 years in prison for drug trafficking and re-entering the country illegally.

Contreras-Esquivel was the passenger in a car driven by Rafael Rangel-Contreras, 32, also of Modesto. Oregon State Police stopped the car for a traffic violation outside Ashland on July 29, 2010. Officers found two packages of meth wrapped in clear plastic laced with coffee grounds to cover the smell hidden inside the trunk, the U.S. Attorney's office said in a news release today.

Rangel-Contreras pleaded guilty on Dec. 13, 2010, to a charge of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and in April was sentenced to four years in prison, prosecutors said in the release.

Contreras-Esquivel pleaded guilty on April 4 to charges of meth possession with intent to distribute and illegal re-entry. Contreras-Esquivel previously had been convicted of an armed home-invasion robbery in California and illegal entry into the United States and was deported after that conviction, the release said.

After the two defendants were arrested last July, Oregon State Police laboratory analysis found latent fingerprints from them on the packaging material of the 3 pounds of meth, prosecutors said. Subsequent investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement determined that the meth was wrapped and packaged by them and others at a Modesto home and hidden in the vehicle. The meth was headed to the Portland area, where it was to be distributed, investigators said.