A man was sentenced to five years in federal prison on Wednesday for transporting more than 50 pounds of methamphetamine in a secret compartment of a car he was driving across southern Oregon in 2021.
According to a federal prosecutor, Daniel Martin Ponce-Gonzalez, who is believed to live in Yakima, Washington, was stopped for unspecified traffic violations while driving a black sedan north on U.S. 97 on June 19, 2021. According to court records, he was not legally in the United States and offered officers a phony name and bogus ID documents.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Marco A. Boccato stated, that after Ponce-Gonzalez and his companion agreed to let agents search their Nissan Altima, officers discovered an aftermarket hidden compartment between a back seat and the trunk.
In the compartment, police discovered 55.1 pounds of methamphetamine, 953 grams of cocaine, and 1,027 fentanyl tablets.
Ponce-Gonzalez, 39, pled guilty in July to one count of having methamphetamine with intent to distribute.
Boccato requested a six-and-a-half-year sentence. He claimed that Ponce-Gonzalez initially denied knowing about the narcotics but then acknowledged putting them in the “trap” of the car.
Ponce-Gonzalez stated in a sentencing statement that he was transporting the cocaine to settle an old drug obligation from roughly 15 years ago. Ponce-Gonzalez also admitted to paying $300 for a bogus ID card.
He had previously been sentenced to prison in Washington for drug trafficking and deported, but his record did not deter him from the narcotics trade, according to Boccato.
Ponce-Gonzalez’s defense attorney, Justin N. Rosas, sought a sentence of two years and six months in jail.
He stated that his client was arrested when he was 23 years old while riding as a passenger in a car driven by a suspect in a drug investigation. Rosas said Ponce-Gonzalez has been a farm laborer for 16 years and has two children.
Ponce-Gonzalez is a devout Catholic with a tattoo of St. Jude, the “Patron Saint for the Hopeless and Despaired,” according to Rosas’ sentencing letter.
“Mr. Ponce-Gonzalez turned to narcotics as a functional working man of color dealing with untreated mental health issues,” Rosas said, referring to his undocumented status in the United States and a lack of resources.
“There is no benefit for society or for this Court in sending Mr. Ponce-Gonzalez to prison for a significant period of time prior to his deportation,” Rosas stated in her opinion.
Ponce-Gonzalez was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Michael J. McShane to a term between the defense and prosecution’s recommendations.
The case was investigated by federal officers from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, with assistance from Oregon State Police and Homeland Security Investigation agents.