TRENTON – Acting Attorney General Robert Lougy announced that a Burlington County man was sentenced to state prison today on 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., was sentenced today to 10 years in state prison, including 3 ½ years of parole ineligibility, by Superior Court Judge Terrence R. Cook in Burlington County. He pleaded guilty on Jan. 19 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. 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. He was sentenced to 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.
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. Deputy Attorney General Brian Carney handled the sentencing hearing today.
The 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. In January, four other men pleaded guilty to drug charges in Ocean County in “Operation Speed Racer.” Three were sentenced on April 15 to prison terms ranging from three to 10 years, and one is awaiting sentencing and faces a recommended sentence of 10 years in prison. They 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 had arranged to purchase two kilograms of crystal meth from him. The undercover detective got into the vehicle driven by Gutierrez-Valencia, who 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 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.
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.