Feds oppose release of Struthers man who pleaded guilty to having 33 pounds of cocaine

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Frank Martinez is asking to be released early from prison because of the Covid-19 pandemic

Frank Martinez, accused of having 33 pounds of cocaine during traffic stop in Youngstown.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Prosecutors are opposing a motion by a Struthers man who pleaded guilty to having 33 pounds of cocaine to be released early from prison.

Frank Martinez, 35, filed the motion in the U.S. Northern District Court of Ohio asking to be released early because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prosecutors filed their response Tuesday but it did not show up on the electronic docket until Wednesday. They admitted Martinez’s health conditions can provide a “compelling” reason for a judge to order his release, but they urged Judge Lioi to deny his motion because of the seriousness of his crime.

Martinez was sentenced in January of 2020 to 10 years in prison by U.S. Judge Sara Lioi after pleading guilty to one count of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance.

Martinez was arrested after he was pulled over March 7, 2019 by troopers with the Ohio State Highway Patrol for an illegal lane change on Interstate 71 in Medina County.

The drugs were found after troopers who pulled Martinez over asked for a drug dog to search his truck. The drugs were found in a hidden compartment in the truck after it was impounded once the dog detected the scent of drugs, investigators said.

The troopers who pulled Martinez over are part of a special team that looks for suspected criminals on the roadways. They were tipped off to look for Martinez that night, who was believed to be transporting drugs from Texas to Youngstown.

During the stop, which was captured on video, Martinez was asked to exit his truck so it could be searched. From the time that the trooper pulled Martinez over to the time the dog alerted on the odor of drugs, it took less than five minutes.

The trooper with the dog was in another cruiser, but when he heard the traffic stop on the radio, he waited two to four minutes before heading to the stop, Judge Lioi wrote.

Investigators began looking at Martinez in 2018 after they received information from a confidential source that Martinez became involved in a drug trafficking organization, Judge Lioi wrote. State authorities got a warrant to get records that would show the location of Martinez’s phone.

Martinez entered his guilty plea after Judge Lioi denied a suppression motion by his attorneys.

He filed a motion for release March 10 under seal for an early release due to health concerns because of the pandemic.

In their response, prosecutors wrote the federal Bureau of Prisons have taken all necessary precautions to make sure inmates are safe during the pandemic.

Prosecutors did admit that because of his health, “there is a basis for the Court to
find extraordinary and compelling reasons to consider releasing Martinez early,” but they said he should remain in prison because he was part of an organization smuggling drugs into Ohio and he has a criminal record going back to 2005.

Prosecutors also wrote that despite his concerns, the virus is well under control at the prison where he is housed. Releasing him early would demean the seriousness of the crime he pleaded guilty to, prosecutors wrote.

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