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Martin Martinez Saldana, 44, was convicted Friday of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and possession of an illegal short-barreled shotgun, according to the release by a Statesville jury. Ashe County Sheriff's Office and Boone police assisted in the case. Photo/Submitted



Originally published: 2014-03-10 15:56:08
Last modified: 2014-03-10 15:59:19

West Jefferson man convicted on federal drug, firearms charges

A West Jefferson man was convicted of federal drug and firearms charges on Friday, according to a release issued by U.S. Attorney M. Tompkins.

Martin Martinez Saldana, 44, was convicted of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and possession of an illegal short-barreled shotgun, according to the release by a Statesville jury.

Tompkins was joined in making Friday's announcement by Harry S. Sommers, special agent in charge of the Atlanta Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, which oversees the Charlotte District Office; Wayne L. Dixie, special agent in charge of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Charlotte Field Division; Greg McLeod, director of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation; and Sheriff James Williams of the Ashe County Sheriff's Office.

Between early 2011 and the end of 2012, Saldana and his co-conspirators distributed more than 20 pounds of "near-pure crystal methamphetamine, also known as 'ice," in Ashe County and other areas, according to court documents and evidence introduced at trial.

"According to trial evidence, the high level of purity of the methamphetamine indicates it originated from a Mexican 'super lab' and had an estimated street-level value of more than $1 million," according to the release.

According to the release, when law enforcement executed a search warrant at Saldana's residence, they seized, "four handguns, including a revolver hidden under his mattress, and an illegal short-barreled shotgun, as well as ammunition."

Five Ashe County properties, with a combined worth over $500,000, were also seized during the course of the investigation, according to the release, along with $50,000 in cash, one vehicle, one-quarter kilogram of methamphetamine "ice," drug packaging materials, and three images of Santa Muerte, allegedly adopted by "drug traffickers as (a) folk "patron saint."

Saldana was arrested on Dec. 12, 2012, according to the release, as he was planning to leave for Mexico.

"He has been in federal custody since his arrest and will remain in custody until his sentencing date," according to the release. "The charges levied against Saldana carry a statutory mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison, and a fine of up to $10 million."

In the release, Tompkins commended the Drug Enforcement Agency in Charlotte, along with the Ashe County Sheriff's Office, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of Saldana.

"U.S. Attorney Tompkins also thanked the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Alleghany Sheriff's Office and the Boone Police Department for the assistance in this case," according to the release.