TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that a Burlington County man pleaded guilty today to a first-degree methamphetamine charge in “Operation Speed Racer,” an investigation by the New Jersey State Police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) into the distribution of methamphetamine and heroin in Burlington and Ocean counties.
During the investigation, the defendant struck and injured two state troopers with a car while trying to flee from a drug arrest in Mount Laurel, causing a third trooper to fire at him, grazing his arm. That incident was investigated by the Attorney General’s Shooting Response Team, and it was concluded that the undisputed facts indicated that the police use of force was justified under the law.
Juan Gutierrez-Valencia, 25, of Pemberton Township, N.J., pleaded guilty today to first-degree possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, second-degree unlawful possession of a handgun, and fourth-degree obstructing the administration of law before Superior Court Judge Terrence R. Cook in Burlington County. The obstruction charge relates to the incident in which he struck the troopers, and the gun charge relates to a stolen 9mm handgun seized from his car when he was arrested. The state will recommend that he be sentenced to 10 years in state prison, including 3 ½ years of parole ineligibility. Specifically, the state will recommend a sentence of 10 years on the drug charge, with concurrent sentences of five years, including 3 ½ years of parole ineligibility, on the gun charge and 18 months on the obstruction charge. Sentencing for Gutierrez-Valencia is scheduled for April 1.
Deputy Attorney General Julia S. Glass prosecuted Gutierrez-Valencia in the drug investigation for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, and Supervising Deputy Attorney General Andrew B. Johns prosecuted him on behalf of the Attorney General’s Shooting Response Team for the incident in which he struck the state troopers and was shot. The New Jersey State Police and DEA were assisted in Operation Speed Racer by the Division of Criminal Justice, Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office, Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office and Ewing Township Police Department. Last week, four other men pleaded guilty to drug charges in “Operation Speed Racer” and face sentences of five to 10 years in state prison. They allegedly were trafficking drugs independently of Gutierrez-Valencia and were charged in a separate indictment.
Gutierrez-Valencia was arrested on July 7, 2014 at a hotel on Fellowship Road in Mount Laurel, where he met an undercover detective who allegedly had arranged to purchase two kilograms of crystal meth from him. The undercover detective got into the vehicle driven by Gutierrez-Valencia, who allegedly showed him a black gym bag containing a large amount of methamphetamine. Once he saw the drugs, the detective got out of the car and signaled members of the State Police TEAMS Unit to arrest Gutierrez-Valencia. Gutierrez-Valencia allegedly tried to flee, striking and injuring the two state troopers. Gutierrez-Valencia suffered a non-fatal gunshot wound to his arm when one trooper fired at him. Investigators arrested Gutierrez-Valencia and executed a search warrant for the vehicle, seizing two kilograms of methamphetamine and a stolen 9mm handgun.
The following four men pleaded guilty on Jan. 11 in Operation Speed Racer before Superior Court Judge Wendel E. Daniels in Ocean County. Sentencing for these four men is scheduled for April 15.
Those four defendants were arrested on July 8, 2014, at the house where Madrigal-Mejia lived with Corona-Sanchez and Esqueda on Jacobstown Road in New Egypt. An undercover detective had arranged to buy two kilograms of black tar heroin from Corona-Sanchez and Madrigal-Mejia at the house for a price of $65,000 per kilo. When Madrigal-Mejia and Corona-Sanchez showed the undercover detective the heroin, the detective signaled members of the State Police TEAMS Unit to make arrests and execute a search warrant at the house. Mendez, who had supplied the two kilograms of heroin, was arrested in a vehicle outside the house. Esqueda was arrested in his bedroom, where investigators found a quantity of cocaine. Other quantities of cocaine, some packaged for distribution, were discovered in the kitchen and in hall closets. A digital scale, a heat sealer and packaging materials were found by investigators in common areas of the house.
Operation Speed Racer was conducted by detectives of the State Police Intelligence Section, Violent and Organized Crime Control Bureau South, Crime Suppression South Unit. They conducted the investigation with agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration supervised by Special Agent in Charge Carl J. Kotowski of the DEA’s New Jersey Division.