Arizona man pleads guilty to drug trafficking along I-70
Iran Torres sentenced to 11 years in prison after April Fool’s Day drug bust
An Arizona man at the center of a large Interstate 70 drug bust on April Fool’s Day pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance with the intent to sell or distribute Wednesday and, at just 20 years old, was sentenced to 11 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections.
Iran Torres of Phoenix, Arizona, originally faced 12 felony drug charges, including three counts of a special offender sentencing enhancement, after he and another driver were stopped by deputies from the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office the morning of April 1 on I-70 near Gypsum.
That day, sheriff’s deputies 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 between the two cars, according to the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.
Torres was arrested along with the other driver, a 21-year-old Arizona resident named Guadalupe Valdez, who also appeared in court Wednesday for an arraignment but asked for more time on his case. Valdez intends to plead not guilty, but the public defender representing him said he wanted to see what information came out of the plea deal agreed to by Torres before they proceed.
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The facts of the April 1 incident listed in the plea deal “may implicate my client,” the attorney said, and they will need to be aware of that as they prepare for a trial.
Torres waived his right to a preliminary hearing last month in anticipation of receiving the plea deal from the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. The offer ultimately reduced his vulnerability to receiving what could have been a much steeper sentence given that he faced nine class 1 drug felonies, each carrying a recommended sentence of up to 32 years in prison.
After Torres entered his plea, the prosecuting attorney, Deputy District Attorney Johnny Lombardi, and Torres’ public defender were both given the chance to make final arguments to the judge about his sentencing.
Lombardi’s statement focused on the amount of drugs discovered in the two vehicles that day and what they could have done to the communities in which they would have been distributed.
“Fentanyl kills people,” Lombardi said. “It’s horrendous, the damage that this amount of narcotics could have caused.”
“I don’t think Mr. Torres is a drug dealer,” the public defender said, highlighting Torres’ age and lack of a criminal background.
Torres was in a difficult financial situation at the time and “took a job” to move the drugs to “make a quick buck,” his attorney said. Torres recognizes that it was a poor decision, wants to take responsibility for his actions and even plans to earn his GED in prison, he continued.
In fact, Torres’ attorney said the public defender’s office had pushed for more time in the case because they were hoping Lombardi would make them a plea offer with a lower sentence and it was Torres who ultimately said he wanted to take the 11-year recommended sentence they offered.
Torres declined to say anything before receiving his sentence.
Of course, the ultimate sentencing decision fell to 5th Judicial District Judge Paul R. Dunkelman, who handed down the recommended sentence of 11 years in the Department of Corrections with three years of mandatory parole.
Dunkelman ended the sentencing hearing as he often does – with a curt “good luck to you Mr. Torres.”
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