Arizona man gets four years in prison for role in I-70 drug bust
Guadalupe Valdez reverses not-guilty plea to accept offer from DA’s office
An Arizona man pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of a class 2 drug felony Friday for his role in a large Interstate 70 drug bust last spring. He was sentenced to four years in the Colorado Department of Corrections.
Guadalupe Valdez Jr. accepted a plea deal offered by the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance.
Valdez was headed to trial in April after initially pleading not guilty to the charges brought against him, which included three class 1 drug felonies for conspiracy to distribute a large amount of controlled substances.
Valdez and his co-defendant Iran Torres were stopped on I-70 near Gypsum by police and Eagle County Sheriff’s Deputies with the Gore Range Narcotics Interdiction Team on April 1, 2021.
Police pulled the two vehicles over for speeding and lane violations, determined they had been traveling together from Arizona and decided to conduct a search after the two men’s stories did not line up.
With the help of a K-9, deputies located approximately 21 pounds of methamphetamine, 2.2 pounds of heroin and 0.25 pounds of fentanyl pills, according to the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.
The entirety of the narcotics were found in the vehicle of Iran Torres, according to statements given Friday by Valdez’s defense attorney, John Scott, and Deputy District Attorney Johnny Lombardi.
“I will say that Mr. Valdez was not in the car that contained all the narcotics,” Lombardi said Friday. “It was his cousin who was driving it. … They did not attempt to flee, which weighed in their benefit in this plea bargain here.”
For these reasons, Scott said accepting the plea deal in Friday morning’s hearing was a very difficult decision for his client.
Ultimately, Scott said that Valdez chose to plead guilty because the risk of losing in trial was too high given the quantity of drugs involved and the conflicting statements Valdez and Torres gave to police on the day of their arrest.
“He thought the risk of proceeding with trial was far too high … This was his decision, he came to me to accept responsibility for this and I commend him for that,” Scott said during the hearing Friday.
The plea deal brought the three class 1 drug felonies down to just one class 2 drug felony, reducing the possible prison time to four to eight years and requesting that he be sentenced to just four years.
Lombardi highlighted Valdez’s lack of a criminal history as another reason that the District Attorney’s Office reduced the charge and requested he be sentenced on the lower end of the sentencing range.
Ultimately, Chief Judge Paul R. Dunkelman of the 5th Judicial District sentenced Valdez to four years in the Colorado Department of Corrections, but gave Valdez credit for the 113 days he has already served in the Eagle County jail.
“I regret everything. I am taking responsibility. I just want to get this over with,” Valdez said of his decision to accept the four years of prison time.
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