Gavel

Cristian Omar Salazar Delfin of Nogales, Sonora said he was at work one day when a friend asked him if he wanted to earn some extra money by going to the United States.

“I immediately said yes and left work right then and there,” he reportedly told a Santa Cruz County probation officer during an interview on April 8. “I didn’t tell my girlfriend or anyone.”

Expecting to be paid between $700 and $1,000, Salazar said, he met up with his friend and three men he didn’t know and crossed some bags that contained drugs into the United States.

“I knew the drugs were methamphetamine because we had opened the bags and we all snorted some methamphetamine to get some strength to be able to carry the bags of drugs,” he said, adding that once they were across the border, the group spent three days in the hills around Peña Blanca.

“Then a vehicle showed up and everybody loaded their bags in it,” he said.

Salazar said he was told to get inside the vehicle, while three members of his group returned to Mexico. His friend apparently got in the car as well.

According to a summary contained in Salazar’s pre-sentence report, on Oct. 3, 2020, a detective and deputy from the Sheriff’s Office each responded to a road in Rio Rico following a report from the U.S. Border Patrol that a grey sedan was headed for a known load-up location for drugs.

Some time later, the deputy saw a vehicle matching the description provided by the Border Patrol and activated his patrol vehicle’s lights. However, instead of stopping, the driver of the sedan accelerated, and “due to the heavy traffic in which the vehicle was traveling, the pursuit was terminated,” the summary says.

Then the sheriff’s detective saw a large cloud of dust in the area where the vehicle had been traveling “and it was discovered the vehicle had crashed into a hillside.”

In Salazar’s statement, he said that after getting into the car, a police vehicle suddenly appeared behind them with its lights on.

“I was telling the driver to stop, but he told me he was going to go faster to try to get away,” he reportedly told the probation officer.

Salazar said he thought about opening the door and jumping out, but his friend told him not to because he would be killed.

“As we crossed the railroad tracks, the driver lost control and crashed into a hillside and we took off running and hid by a house that was close by.”

According to the law enforcement account, the sheriff’s detective saw two people running away from the vehicle after the crash. They were apprehended and identified as Salazar and Cristian Arturo Villa Verdugo, the driver of the vehicle. It wasn’t clear what happened to Salazar’s friend.

Inside the crashed car, police found three backpacks filled with a total of 100 bundles of a crystal-like substance that tested positive for methamphetamine. The total weight of the drugs was 106.5 pounds.

Salazar, 33, later pleaded guilty at Santa Cruz County Superior Court to one count of unlawful possession of a dangerous drug for sale, a Class 3 felony. On April 19, Judge Thomas Fink sentenced him to 3.5 years in prison, with credit for 198 days already served.

Villa, a 20-year-old resident of Nogales, Sonora, pleaded guilty to the same drug offense as Salazar, as well as to an additional Class 5 felony count of fleeing from a law enforcement vehicle. On April 26, Judge Fink sentenced him to 3.5 years in prison for the drug conviction and 1.5 years for fleeing police pursuit.

The judge allowed Villa to serve the two sentences concurrently, or at the same time, and gave him credit for 204 days served prior to sentencing.

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