Ex-jailer caught in fake meth, brisket taco smuggling scheme asks for leniency

Gabriel Ortiz set to be sentenced Feb. 19

By Mariah Medina - Digital Journalist, Dillon Collier - Investigative Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - A former jailer with the Bexar County Sheriff's Office is asking a federal judge for leniency ahead of his sentencing next Tuesday after he admitted in November to taking part in a conspiracy to smuggle drugs into the county jail.

A presentence report recommended that Gabriel Ortiz be sentenced anywhere between 46 and 57 months behind bars, according to a sentencing memorandum filed Monday. But Ortiz is asking for a probated sentence.

Ortiz was arrested in July of 2018 in a four-count indictment claiming he possessed methamphetamine and attempted to possess methamphetamine as part of a drug smuggling conspiracy inside the Bexar County Jail.

In November, he pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal to a single count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute it.

The federal sentencing memorandum asks the judge to consider the fact that Ortiz had no criminal record prior to his possession charge, has complied with the conditions of his pre-trial release and has custody of his two children. 

The memorandum describes Ortiz as a "loving father, family member, friend, and productive member of society," and an "outstanding father who has custody of (his) twin sons."

According to the memorandum, Ortiz not only supports his twin sons, but his fiance's infant son, which the memorandum states is "rare in society in general, but it is extraordinarily rare for someone charged
with a federal drug offense."

Law enforcement officials worked with a jail informant to arrest Ortiz and his co-worker, Ruben Hernandez, in connection with the jail smuggling operation. Undercover agents gave Ortiz fake meth and brisket tacos to smuggle into the jail, according to a plea deal signed by Ortiz.

Brisket tacos, burner phones, fake methamphetamine

Federal court documents state investigators first became aware of the smuggling operation in 2017 after Ortiz "repeatedly named his price of $700 to smuggle a cell phone to inmates," and said the price would rise to $900 after Christmas. Ortiz, the documents state, needed the smuggling cash to pay off debts.

Agents placed recording equipment in the detention center on Dec. 1, 2017. In April 2018, authorities said a cooperating inmate informed investigators that Ortiz had approached him offering to perform smuggling services in exchange for money.

On April 26, 2018, agents arranged for the cooperating inmate to ask Ortiz to smuggle an ounce of methamphetamine into the detention center in exchange for $1,400. The cooperating inmate, according to court documents, gave Ortiz a phone number for an individual outside the detention center, and Ortiz then met up with that individual in the parking lot of Southpark Mall. During that meeting, Ortiz picked up what he thought was street-packaged methamphetamine and three brisket tacos, the plea deal states.

Later that evening, Ortiz delivered the fake methamphetamine and brisket tacos to the cooperating inmate, court documents state.

Documents state that Ortiz told a cooperating inmate that he was "anxious" to make another smuggling run before May 15, 2018, because he needed cash for a down payment on a new house. A second delivery date was set for May 15, 2018.

Similar to the first delivery, during the second delivery, Ortiz picked up what he thought was an ounce of methamphetamine. The person also gave Ortiz $1,000 in cash and a bag of tacos for the inmate, the plea agreement details.

Sometime in May 2018, Ortiz brought Hernandez in on the smuggling operation. Hernandez has also taken a plea deal.

As part of the plea deal, Hernandez agrees to plead guilty to the conspiracy charge, and in exchange, the federal government will drop the charge of attempting to possess the drug with the intent to distribute it.

Click here to read more about how Hernandez and Ortiz were busted...

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