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Man gets 4 years for meth stop near Ashland

MADGE detectives found a bag containing roughly 5 pounds of methamphetamine kept next to a diaper bag in the back of a rented minivan stopped south of Ashland in February 2020. [U.S. District Court photo]

A San Diego man was sentenced Wednesday to four years in federal prison for his role in driving at least 5 pounds of methamphetamine from California to local drug dealers in Southern Oregon while his associate, his associate’s girlfriend and the woman’s infant were along for the ride.

Martin Jesus Velasco, 39, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Medford to 48 months in prison for possessing methamphetamine with intent to distribute the drug, according to a news advisory issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Velasco pleaded guilty to the charge in April, admitting to his role trafficking roughly 5 pounds of meth from California to Oregon in January and February 2020 as part of an effort to trade his methamphetamine for illicitly grown marijuana from Southern Oregon, according to U.S. District Court records.

Law enforcement began monitoring Velasco’s drug shipments in late 2019, obtained a geo-tracking warrant on Velasco’s cellphone in January 2020 and, through surveillance, learned he was selling quantities of meth to local drug dealers in the pounds.

On Feb. 6, 2020, the Medford Area Drug and Gang Enforcement task force, better known as MADGE, arrested Velasco and co-defendant Jhony Alfredo Martines in a rented Toyota Sienna minivan on Interstate 5 south of Ashland.

Martines has since pleaded guilty to his role, and he is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 25 in Eugene.

Martines’ girlfriend and an infant child were along for the ride during the Feb. 6 traffic stop and on at least one prior trip, according to a sentencing brief filed Sept. 1 by Assistant U.S. Attorney Marco Boccato, who prosecuted the case.

Boccato stated that diapers were kept in the van next to the duffel bag containing five 1-pound bundles of meth wrapped in plastic. If prosecuted under state law, the case could merit the felony crime of first-degree child neglect, Boccato said.

“Not only did this infant have to suffer through multiple lengthy drives from Southern California to Southern Oregon, but the young child was also placed in danger,” Boccato wrote. “Under Oregon law, this activity is its own felony offense, and for good reason.”

Text message conversations on Velasco’s phone showed him as “an individual who was involved in ongoing and extensive drug trafficking,” and he sought quantities of marijuana in the pounds in exchange for meth.

“Velasco was not dealing in small quantities,” Boccato wrote.

District Court Judge Ann Aiken sentenced Velasco to 48 months in prison. He has until Jan. 9 to surrender to U.S. marshals and begin serving his prison sentence, court records show.

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