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Trio sentenced to state prison for drug trafficking crimes

Three of the five men indicted last year in connection with a statewide methamphetamine and cocaine trafficking ring will serve multi-year sentences in state prison.

According to New Jersey Acting Attorney General Robert Lougy, Plumsted Township residents Guadalupe Madrigal-Mejia, 36, Juan Mendez, 48, and Antonio Esqueda, 34, were sentenced on April 15.

The men were apprehended during Operation Speed Racer, an investigation and drug sting organized by the New Jersey State Police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Detectives from the state and federal agencies were joined by the Division of Criminal Justice, the Cape May County and Gloucester County prosecutor’s offices and the Ewing Township Police Department during the summer of 2014 in an attempt to shut down the alleged drug ring.

“These narcotics traffickers callously profited at the expense of the drug users whose lives and families were ripped apart by the heroin and methamphetamine they sold,” Lougy said. “We will aggressively prosecute anyone who deals these extremely malignant drugs.”

On April 15, Madrigal-Mejia was sentenced to 10 years in state prison on a first degree distribution of heroin charge; Mendez was sentenced to six years in state prison on a second degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute charge; and Esqueda was sentenced  to three years in state prison on a third degree possession of cocaine with intent to distribute charge.

Authorities said all five men who were arrested during Operation Speed Racer pleaded guilty to various charges in January.

Madrigal-Mejia, Mendez, Esqueda and Elias Corona-Sanchez, 30, of North Hanover, were taken into custody at a residence on Jacobstown Road in Plumsted on July 8, 2014, where the sale of two kilograms of black tar heroin had allegedly been arranged to take place.

At the time, an undercover detective signaled for members of a state police unit to arrest the four men and execute a search warrant of the home after seeing the drugs in question. Authorities said cocaine, a digital scale, a heat sealer and packaging materials were found in the residence.

Corona-Sanchez pleaded guilty on Jan. 11 to a charge of first degree distribution of heroin. He is facing a 10-year sentence in state prison.

The fifth man, Juan Gutierrez-Valencia, 25, of Pemberton Township, was arrested on July 4, 2014, when he met with an undercover detective who arranged to purchase two kilograms of crystal meth in Mount Laurel.

Gutierrez-Valencia allegedly showed the detective a bag full of methamphetamine. At that point the detective got out of the car in which the two men had been sitting and signaled for members of a state police unit to make the arrest, according to law enforcement authorities.

Gutierrez-Valencia attempted to flee the scene by driving straight at the state troopers. Shots were fired and Gutierrez-Valencia was hit in the arm. State troopers executed a search warrant on the car and found a bag of methamphetamines and a stolen 9mm handgun. Gutierrez-Valencia was charged with aggravated assault, eluding police and resisting arrest.

“These defendants would stop at nothing to continue moving large quantities of meth, as evidenced by the stolen handgun we recovered and the assault on troopers committed by Gutierrez-Valencia,” said Col. Rick Fuentes, superintendent of the state police.

Gutierrez-Valencia pleaded guilty on Jan. 19 to first degree possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, second degree unlawful possession of a handgun and fourth degree obstructing the administration of law. He is facing a sentence of 10 years in state prison.

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