SAN DIEGO–A drug trafficker who fled during his 2009 trial and was arrested years later in Mexico, was sentenced to 20 years in prison today for smuggling 66 pounds of pure methamphetamine from Mexico and distributing it throughout San Diego.
According to court records, from 2003 and 2007, Salvador Ojeda-Amarillas conspired with other drug traffickers to have pounds of methamphetamine smuggled into San Diego from Mexico, and distributed throughout San Diego County. Using court-authorized wiretaps on numerous cell phones, Drug Enforcement Administration special agents intercepted dozens of calls where Ojeda and others discussed logistics for their drug operations.
DEA special agents arrested Ojeda on May 17, 2007 when they executed a search warrant on Ojeda’s San Diego residence – in conjunction with 17 other search warrants executed by DEA throughout the county. Inside Ojeda’s home, DEA seized three firearms, including a loaded rifle located within arm’s reach of Ojeda’s bed, and a digital scale that tested positive for methamphetamine residue.
Ojeda’s trial began in May 2009. During the second week of trial — after listening to dozens of intercepted calls where he heard himself using coded language to conduct drug deals, and the testimony of four cooperating defendants who received deliveries of pounds of methamphetamine from Ojeda — Ojeda had heard enough. He cut his GPS bracelet and fled to Mexico.
Ojeda was convicted by the jury in absentia. Ojeda eluded arrest in Mexico for several years. He was eventually arrested in Mexico and extradited back to the United States in 2016.
In court today, U.S. District Judge William Q. Hayes said the government presented a very strong case at trial and the evidence against Ojeda was “overwhelming.” The case was aggravated, in part, based on the amount and type of substance – 66 pounds of pure methamphetamine smuggled from Mexico and distributed throughout San Diego over the course of multiple years. Judge Hayes said that a 20-year-sentence was appropriate because Ojeda was a leader of an extensive drug trafficking organization, possessed firearms at his home during the conspiracy, and he obstructed justice.
“This defendant found out today that the United States never forgets,” said U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman. “Ojeda listened to mountains of evidence against him and decided to flee. The outcome of this case is a reminder that the government will pursue those who peddle drugs and violence in our communities for as long as it takes, and the consequences of running are severe.”
“Today’s sentence was the solid end of a comprehensive DEA investigation focusing on methamphetamine trafficking organizations in San Diego,” said DEA San Diego Special Agent in Charge Karen Flowers. “Methamphetamine is a dangerous drug that continues to have a devastating impact on our society. The DEA will continue to work to bring methamphetamine traffickers to justice and make San Diego a safer place.”
This case is part of a multi-year investigation led by the DEA in Southern District of California that, in total, resulted in the arrest of 48 people, the seizure of 68 pounds of methamphetamine, 15 firearms, and approximately $295,000 in U.S. Currency.
This investigation is also the result of ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a partnership that brings together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, dismantle and prosecute high-level members of drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations and enterprises.