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NorCal man admits to role in meth ring tied to Southern Oregon

A northern California man has admitted to his role in a four-person drug ring that involved distributing dozens of pounds of methamphetamine across three states, and stops in the Medford area.

Noel Lomas Murillo, 33, of Vacaville, California, pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Portland to a charge of conspiring to possess methamphetamine with intent to distribute, admitting that he sourced large quantities of drugs that his brother in Umatilla County would distribute to northeastern Oregon and southeast Washington from 2017 to May 2018.

Murillo’s brother, Abel Lomas Murillo, 28, of Weston, has been serving a 19 year, 7 month prison sentence since 2019 for his role in the scheme, according to an earlier news report.

Noel Murillo would bring the drugs from northern California to Klamath Falls. With the help of hired drug runners, Abel Murillo would travel between the Medford area to Morrow and Umatilla counties with the drugs.

The first break in the drug investigation occurred in January 2018, when an Oregon State Police trooper stopped a hired driver for the brothers near Klamath Falls identified as Luis Alberto Navarro, 33, of Boardman. During the stop, police reportedly found hidden in the vehicle more than 17 pounds of methamphetamine destined for northeastern Oregon.

The following May, investigators with the FBI, OSP and the Blue Mountain Enforcement Narcotics Team trailed Abel Murillo from Umatilla County to Southern Oregon. They witnessed him loading up a trailer then followed behind hired driver Noel Ponce Villegas, 28, also of Boardman, in a Subaru WRX STI sports car.

At a May 6 stop outside The Dalles, investigators found 38.8 pounds of meth hidden inside the trailer. Federal investigators later found another 10 pounds of meth and five firearms after searching the Medford storage unit.

Noel Murillo will be sentenced Jan. 5 in Portland. He faces a mandatory minimum 10 years in prison followed by five years of supervised release, and the crime carries a maximum penalty up to life in prison.

Both of the drivers in the case have since pleaded guilty, according to federal prosecutors. Villegas was sentenced in December 2020 to time served and three years of supervised release. Navarro pleaded guilty in 2018 and is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 1.

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.