By Dan Nienaber
---- — MANKATO — A Blooming Prairie man who was arrested with his wife in Mankato after they sold nearly a pound of methamphetamine to a drug investigator during a three-month period was sentenced to nine years in prison Monday.
Eduardo Rodriguez-Martinez, 61, and Elia Esquivel Gonzalez, 47, were living with the alias names of Reynaldo Rivera Jr. and Josefina Villa when they were arrested near the intersection of Blue Earth County Road 27 and Highway 14 on Jan. 8, 2013. An investigator with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) paid Rodriguez-Martinez $13,500 for 9 ounces of methamphetamine before the arrests were made. The street value for that amount of the drug would have been more than $20,000.
The arrests ended an investigation that had started the previous October after an informant told that investigator and another BCA agent that he was buying large amounts of methamphetamine from a man and two women in Blooming Prairie. The informant told the agents he didn't know the name of the man and he only knew the women as "Nancy" and "Lucy," according to the criminal complaints filed in Blue Earth County District Court. He also knew where the three people were living.
Investigators contacted the Blooming Prairie police chief and were able to link a house and vehicles there to the couple, who were known in town as Rivera and Villa. One of the agents also was able to set up three smaller drug buys with the couple, all of which took place in parking lots at the River Hills Mall in Mankato.
About 5 ounces of methamphetamine were sold to the agent for $7,700 during those buys. About an ounce was sold for $1,500 during the first deal. About 2 ounces of the drug were sold for $3,200 during each of the following two sales. Rodriguez-Martinez was involved in two of those sales. Gonzalez sold the drug to the agent during one of the deals while her husband was in Target, the complaints said.
The larger sale that ended with the couple being arrested was originally set to take place in a mall parking lot, but Rodriguez-Martinez called the agent and said he had run out of gas east of Mankato. When the agent arrived at County Road 27 location, which is just east of Eagle Lake, Rodriguez-Martinez had hidden the 9 ounces methamphetamine in a nearby culvert. The drug was in a plastic bag inside a washing detergent box.
Rodriguez-Martinez had reached a plea deal in July but the deal was withdrawn by Assistant Blue Earth County Attorney Chris Rovney after Rodriguez-Martinez refused to implicate his wife. Rovney also filed a new criminal complaint including charges for the earlier sales.
On Jan. 7 Rodriguez-Martinez pleaded guilty to two felony counts of first-degree drug sales. He was sentenced Monday to 86 months in prison for the first count and 110 months for the second count, but Judge Bradley Walker set the sentences to be served concurrently. He will serve about two more years in prison than he would have with the first plea agreement. With a sentence reduction for good behavior and credit for the 426 days he has already served in jail, Rodriguez-Martinez could be released after about five years in prison.
Gonzalez pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree drug sales on Feb. 5. She is scheduled to be sentenced next week. Her plea agreement caps her sentence at 86 months, which means she could be released in about three years.
A third woman, whom investigators described as being younger after talking to her during a phone call, was not charged in Blue Earth County. Only Rodriguez-Martinez and Villa were in the vehicles that were used to make the methamphetamine deliveries.