Meth ring leader sentenced to 14 years in prison

A leader of a North County methamphetamine trafficking ring has been sentenced in San Diego federal court to 14 years in prison.

Gilbert Joseph Ramirez, 39, admitted to coordinating the delivery or distribution of more than 8 pounds of meth in 2014 and 2015. He was sentenced Friday.

Ramirez would obtain meth from a co-defendant who got it from Mexican trafficking networks, then disperse the drug to subdistributors and oversee the collection of drug proceeds, according to his plea agreement.

He pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

Ramirez, who grew up in Los Angeles with drug-addicted parents, moved to Vista in 2014 and was unemployed when he was arrested in May 2015, said Frank Balistrieri, his defense lawyer.

Ramirez is a documented gang member with prior convictions of assault with a firearm, battery and domestic violence, Asst. U.S. Atty. Luella Caldito said.

The investigation began in 2014 when authorities received tips from confidential informants about two co-defendants accused of dealing large amounts of meth, according to the complaint. Investigators installed wiretaps on their phones, revealing a larger drug network.

The wiretaps would eventually expand to 20 different phones during the investigation. Ramirez was accused of overseeing the distribution of multiple pounds of meth, according to the complaint.

In one deal recorded by authorities, Ramirez sold an ounce of meth to a subdistributor for $430, who then sold the drug to a confidential informant for $550, according to the complaint.

The investigation culminated in raids at apartments and homes in Vista, Oceanside, Valley Center and San Marcos.

At the hearing, Ramirez apologized to his family. “A lot of stuff that’s on paper isn’t really who I am,” he said.

Of the 18 people indicted, 16 have pleaded guilty while the charges against two have been dismissed.

Davis writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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