California heroin dealers who used code words like ‘taco’ in phone orders get 24 years in prison

Dec 19, 2023, 6:34 PM

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — Two Southern California brothers who ran a heroin-delivery operation — taking telephone orders from customers using code words like “taco” — have been sentenced to 24 years each in federal prison, prosecutors announced.

Julio Cesar Martinez, 45, of Riverside, and Victor Martinez, 46, of Hemet, parts of California’s sprawling Inland Empire, were sentenced Monday. Both pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy to distribute heroin and acknowledged distributing at least 29 kilograms (64 pounds) of the drug in Orange County, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office.

The ring operated from at least September 2003 to July 2021 and sold heroin that was smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico by couriers who sometimes hid the drug in their body cavities, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Call centers run out of workers’ homes handled orders from buyers who used the names of Mexican foods to buy drugs. A gram of heroin was a “taco” and an ounce (a little over 28 grams) was an “enchilada,” authorities said.

Runners then delivered the order and took payment.

One customer died in 2016 in Orange County from overdosing on heroin and other drugs, prosecutors said.

Other members of the ring placed the money in bank accounts in deposits of $10,000 or less to evade federal reporting requirements, prosecutors said.

“These two brothers took drug dealing to another level by operating a heroin-delivery service that profited on the addiction and affliction of others,” U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said in the statement. “While they and their families lived lavishly, these defendants ignored the destruction they caused in our community. Today’s sentence sends a clear message that we will not stand for misconduct of this sort.”

The brothers were among more than a dozen people targeted under what authorities called “Operation Horse Caller,” a five-year federal effort to dismantle the ring.

Prosecutors said that so far, sixteen people have been convicted because of the effort.

United States News

Associated Press

With trash bins now required in NYC, only the rats are sorry to see the garbage piles go

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City’s tradition of piling garbage bags on the sidewalk for pickup is going the way of the dinosaur. As of Friday, all 200,000 businesses in the Big Apple are required to put out their bags of trash in garbage bins, as communities across the county and world have long […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Authorities search for father and 2 young children in New Hampshire after mother found dead

MEREDITH, N.H. (AP) — Authorities were searching Friday for a father and his two young children after the children’s mother was found dead in a New Hampshire apartment. Authorities issed an Amber Alert just after 4 a.m. for the abduction of 4-year-old Elowyn Duren and 1-year-old Vaelyn Duren from the city of Berlin. Authorities said […]

1 hour ago

A "vote here" sign sits outside a Phoenix polling place in 2022....

Associated Press

Judge rules Arizona’s new voting laws requiring proof of citizenship aren’t discriminatory

An Arizona district judge has ruled state legislators didn't discriminate when passing new voting laws that require proof of citizenship.

3 hours ago

FILE - Phill Cady holds a sign during a "Take Our Border Back" rally on Feb. 3, 2024, in Quemado, T...

Associated Press

Russian disinformation is about immigration. The real aim is to undercut Ukraine aid

WASHINGTON (AP) — For Vladimir Putin, victory in Ukraine may run through Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. In recent weeks, Russian state media and online accounts tied to the Kremlin have spread and amplified misleading and incendiary content about U.S. immigration and border security. The campaign seems crafted to stoke outrage and polarization before the 2024 […]

4 hours ago

FILE - Defendant Kevin Monahan, left, listens to opening statements in his murder trial, Jan. 11, 2...

Associated Press

Man to be sentenced for murdering a woman who was mistakenly driven up his rural New York driveway

FORT EDWARD, N.Y. (AP) — A man who fatally shot a 20-year-old woman in an SUV that was mistakenly driven up his rural driveway in upstate New York is scheduled to be sentenced Friday. Kevin Monahan, 66, was convicted of second-degree murder in the death last April of Kaylin Gillis. Gillis was riding in a […]

11 hours ago

David and Stephanie Joiner pose by part of an artwork, called Greenwood Pond: Double Site, Sunday, ...

Associated Press

Artists outraged by removal of groundbreaking work along Des Moines pond

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Des Moines arts organization is preparing to rip out a groundbreaking artwork that lines a pond in a historic city park, surprising the New York artist who created the work decades ago and leading to an outpouring of opposition by other artists and local residents. The decision to remove […]

11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

California heroin dealers who used code words like ‘taco’ in phone orders get 24 years in prison