PORTLAND, Ore. – PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The man authorities say was the kingpin of one of the biggest drug organizations in Oregon history was sentenced Monday to 30 years in prison.
Prosecutors say Jorge Ortiz-Oliva, 40, oversaw three large "super" labs in the Salem area that produced at least 230 pounds of methamphetamine and ran marijuana plantations on secluded public land and national forests in several states. More than 40,000 plants were seized from one site in southern Oregon.
"When you're flooding a state with methamphetamine in the middle of a meth epidemic, you're damaging babies in the womb, you're damaging communities," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen L. Bickers, who sought a life sentence for Ortiz-Oliva. "They were creating a super demand of addicts. They did so much damage to the United States."
Ortiz-Oliva was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown on charges of drug trafficking, conspiracy to traffic in drugs and illegal re-entry to the United States. She also sentenced 31-year-old Pablo Barajas-Lopez, who worked for Ortiz-Oliva, to 15 years in prison on similar charges.
The two will be deported to Mexico when their sentences are completed.
Barajas-Lopez and Ortiz-Oliva, who had been convicted of assault in the shooting of a man in Salem in 1995 and deported, were found guilty by a jury in October. Attorneys for the two have said they would appeal their convictions.
A dozen others have been convicted or pleaded guilty to charges that grew out of the multi-agency investigation involving drug traffickers in 12 states.
Using wire taps and interviews with co-conspirators, investigators identified Ortiz-Oliva as the leader of an organization that had ties to a Nocupetaro, Mexico, drug cartel.
The "super" labs produced more than 10 pounds of meth for each cooking cycle, Bickers said.
At the time of the investigation, meth sold for about $10,000 per pound, said Detective Scotty Nowning, a Salem police narcotics investigator. Cocaine brought in to Salem from Mexico was sold around the country, he said.
Ortiz-Oliva "was the person directing the operation," Nowning. "He was always giving directions, never receiving them."
Defense attorney Thomas Coan said Ortiz-Oliva tried to cooperate with authorities but lost trust in the investigators.
"He did his best to accept responsibility," Coan said.
John E. Storkel, attorney for Barajas-Lopez, asked for leniency for his client, saying he had been working full time before being arrested and had no prior felony convictions. Speaking through an interpreter, Barajas-Lopez apologized and asked to be sent to the federal penitentiary in Sheridan, Ore., so he can be close to his family.
"I know I merit punishment," he said.