STATESVILLE, N.C. – Today, a federal judge sentenced Martin Martinez Saldana, 44, of West Jefferson, N.C., to life in prison on conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and possession of a short-barreled shotgun charges, announced Jill Westmoreland Rose, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
Acting U.S. Attorney Rose is joined in making today’s announcement by : John S. Comer, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which oversees the Charlotte District Office; Wayne L. Dixie, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Charlotte Field Division; B.W. Collier, Acting Director of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI); and Sheriff James Williams of the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO).
According to filed court documents and evidence presented at Saldana’s four-day trial in March 2014, from as early as 2011 through the end of 2012, Saldana and his conspirators distributed in Ashe County and elsewhere more than 20 pounds of near-pure crystal methamphetamine, also known as “ice.” Trial evidence established that the high level of purity of the methamphetamine indicates it originated from a Mexican “super lab” with an estimated street-level value of more than $1 million. The evidence at trial also established that when law enforcement executed a search warrant at Saldana’s residence they seized four handguns, including a revolver hidden under his mattress, and an illegal short-barreled shotgun, as well as ammunition. Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement also seized five real properties in Ashe County worth over $500,000 combined, $50,000 in cash, one vehicle, one- quarter kilogram of methamphetamine “ice” and drug packaging materials. Among the seized items also were three images of Santa Muerte, who has been adopted by drug traffickers as folk “patron saint.”
Saldana was indicted by a federal grand jury on December 13, 2012, which indictment was superseded on August 20, 2013. He has been in federal custody since his arrest on December 12, 2012, when law enforcement discovered that Saldana was planning to go to Mexico.
Acting U.S. Attorney Rose commended the DEA in Charlotte, ACSO, SBI, and ATF for the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of Martin Martinez Saldana, and also thanked the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Alleghany Sheriff’s Office, and the Boone Police Department for the assistance in this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven R. Kaufman handled the prosecution of the case.
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