Noting a number of positive attributes despite the defendant’s crimes, Superior Court Judge Thomas Fink sentenced a Nogales man to five years in prison for dealing drugs in the community while he was on probation.

Ivan Ariel Alvarez, 38, was sentenced on Sept. 28 for six counts of the unlawful sale of a narcotic drug and one count of the unlawful possession of a narcotic drug for sale, all Class 2 felonies.

“I came in here prepared to give you a sentence somewhere in the range of 10 to 12.5 years, and it was a difficult decision,” Fink said, adding that he didn’t want Alvarez to become “institutionalized.”

“I may be making a big mistake here, but I think you’re someone who has some potential and I saw some positive things here, notwithstanding everything in your record,” the judge said.

According to Alvarez’s pre-sentence report, the Homeland Security Investigation Office in Nogales and the Santa Cruz County HIDTA Task Force received information in January that Alvarez was storing hard narcotics at his residence and elsewhere in Nogales.

Soon after in March, the two agencies began a “controlled drug buy and surveillance” operation, gathering evidence of Alvarez’s illicit business activities in the community.

During separate occasions on March 3, 9 and 23, Alvarez sold an undercover agent nearly 16 grams of methamphetamine and nearly 7 grams of cocaine. The next month on April 2 and 17, he sold an undercover agent a total of 11 grams of meth, and 4.5 grams each of cocaine and fentanyl pills.

On April 24, according to the pre-sentence report, authorities executed three search warrants for Alvarez’s home, as well as the homes of his co-conspirators Francisco Octavio Cervantes and Fabian Mercado.

The search of Alvarez’s residence led to the seizure of 16 grams of fentanyl, 30 grams of crystal methamphetamine and more than 52 grams of marijuana. Agents also seized $640 in cash, a white Chevy Traverse and a cell phone.

During an interview following his arrest, Alvarez told authorities that he began selling drugs from his home after he was laid off from his job in February.

Alvarez added that someone carried the drugs across the border and he was paid $100 to receive them. In addition, he made a $200 profit per week from selling those drugs in the community.

In a statement dated Sept. 22, Alvarez said the pressure of not having money to pay the bills made it easy for him to go back to his “old ways,” which included selling and using drugs.

Court documents show that Alvarez has previously served two terms of supervised probation in Santa Cruz County, both which were terminated unsuccessfully and he was then sentenced to prison terms. Those two sentences were for charges relating to the aggravated assault on a peace officer, a Class 6 felony, and the attempted unlawful possession of a narcotic drug, a Class 5 felony.

He had most recently been given a sentence on July 2, 2018 of three years of supervised probation. During that time, court records show, he tested positive for cocaine use during six screenings.

Although he said Alvarez seems like an “outstanding guy,” county prosecutor Enrique Gonzalez, Jr. asked Fink to hand down a “tough sentence,” adding that detectives learned of Alvarez’s illicit business even before he actually lost his job in February.

“The defendant didn’t understand those were law enforcement officers,” Gonzalez said. “He thought they were people looking for a fix and he was going to do his best to get them their drugs and make a profit off of that.”

But, taking into consideration in-court statements from Alvarez’s wife, Fink focused on the good things that Alvarez has done and handed down a lesser sentence.

“I look at the positive things that were stated through your probation officer, the positive things that you did on probation. You have apparently raised a good family and kids, and you do have a drug problem,” Fink said, adding that five years of prison would allow him enough time to get out and become a “productive citizen.”

Fink had earlier sentenced Cervantes, Alvarez’s co-defendant and brother, to three years in prison for a conviction on one Class 4 felony count of possessing marijuana for sale. Charges against Mercado, the third co-defendant, are still pending at Superior Court.

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