WEST CHESTER – One of the men identified as a member of a large-scale drug trafficking ring with ties to Mexico pleaded guilty on Tuesday to charges that will ultimately see him deported back to his native land.
Martin Romero-Cruz admitted that he had bought multiple grams of cocaine from a man who was under police surveillance as part of the local and federal operation dubbed by authorities as “Operation Tuberia Rota,” or “broken pipeline,” on two occasions in July 2012.
Under the terms of the plea agreement that was accepted by Common Pleas Judge Anthony Sarcione, Romero-Cruz, 30, of Kennett Square, will be sentenced to 6½ to 12 years in state prison on two counts of possession with intent to deliver cocaine.
The actual sentence will not be formally imposed until mid-August, according to Assist ant District Attorney Christopher deBarrena-Sarobe, who is prosecuting the individual cases that are being prosecuted in Chester County as part of the multi-jurisdictional operation.
The delay will give Romero-Cruz the opportunity to clear up some family business before being transferred to a state prison, Assistant Public Defender Trevor Taylor told Sarcione.
In addition, Sarcione informed Romero-Cruz, who is in the country without documentation from Mexico, that his guilty plea would likely result in his deportation after he is paroled from his state sentence. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has already lodged a detainer against him, deBarrena-Sarobe said.
Romero-Cruz was arrested in January and charged with seven counts of drug possession, although he pleaded guilty to only two counts. On July 4, 2012 and July 9, 2012, police said he purchased cocaine from Miguel Luna Rodriguez, 44, of Nottingham, who authorities had identified as a drug supplier with ties to traffickers from Mexico. Their conversations were picked up on a wiretap.
The first of the two transactions Romero-Cruz pleaded guilty to was for seven grams of cocaine, and the second was for 14 grams. In his taped conversations, he used code to ask Rodriguez for a specific amount of cocaine, referring to pants sizes instead of the number of grams. Thus, he can be heard on the first tape asking for “size seven pants.”
DeBarrena-Sarobe said that Romero-Cruz, like other drug dealers selling cocaine, would likely have added other substances to the cocaine to stretch it out and sell it on the street for hundreds of dollars.
The amount of cocaine called for mandatory minimum sentences of one year and five years, but the prosecution had agreed to waive the one-year mandatory sentence in exchange for the plea, deBarrena-Sarobne told Sarcione. If he participates in rehabilitation programs in prison, Romero-Cruz can have his minimum sentence decreased to 57½ months.
His was not the first prosecution of the “Operation Tuberia Rota” cases. Last week, Judge Jacqueline Carroll Cody, on whose trial list the bulk of the cases have been assigned, sentenced Daniel Ramirez, 28, of Nottingham to four to eight years. At least one other defendant, Abel Francisco Tinoco, may enter a plea in his two cases later this week.
Although the bulk of the defendants in the cases were arrested in January, law enforcement officials did not announce the conclusion of the operation they said involved a cocaine pipeline running from Mexico straight into southern Chester County until last week, as remaining members of the ring were taken into custody.
A total of 16 arrests were made across southern Chester County, Berks County, and Delaware state.