Public Safety

Leader of multinational ice meth ring gets life in federal prison

Drug distribution included in Eastern Iowa

(File photo) Department of Justice seal in the US Attorneys office at the federal courthouse in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Dec. 23, 2016. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
(File photo) Department of Justice seal in the US Attorneys office at the federal courthouse in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Dec. 23, 2016. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A Mexican national, who operated a large, multinational ice methamphetamine distribution ring, including Eastern Iowa, was sentenced Tuesday to life in federal prison.

Jose Maria Valencia, 44, of La Ruana, Michoacan, pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to distribute at least 500 grams of meth by a drug felon.

In 2013, Valencia was sent to California state prison after being convicted of conspiracy to commit murder. While in prison during 2014 and 2015, Valencia continued to run his drug ring, according to U.S. District Court documents.

Valencia used contraband items in prison, such as cellphones, and arranged to import meth from Mexico into the United States, according to a plea agreement. Once the meth arrived in the U.S., it was transported to various locations, including Iowa, typically concealed in vehicles. The shipments and operations would be monitored through social media sites by Valencia, the plea agreement showed.

Authorities said Valencia was responsible for recruiting, managing and supervising people in the organization and was responsible for distributing at least 250 pounds of ice methamphetamine.

“Valencia continued to push hundreds of pounds of deadly methamphetamine into our community despite being incarcerated in California for conspiracy to commit murder,” U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan Jr. said in a statement. “This case is a reminder that we must always remain vigilant in our effort fight back against national and international drug trafficking organizations.”

Valencia will remain in U.S. Marshal’s custody until he can be returned to state custody in California.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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