Burrito-shaped meth bundles worth thousands land man in prison, Calif. prosecutors say

Los Angeles police weren’t fooled by 14 burrito-shaped, foil-wrapped bundles discovered in a garbage bag in a Southern California man’s SUV, according to federal prosecutors.

Inside those packages officers found a stash of methamphetamine that weighed nearly 14 pounds — drugs that would have sold for between $27,000 and $40,000 on the street, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a news release on Monday.

A federal judge sentenced Ricardo Renteria, a 48-year-old from Colton in San Bernardino County, to 15 years in prison Monday, prosecutors said. During his one-day trial in March, Renteria was found guilty of possessing meth with intent to distribute, possessing a firearm during a drug trafficking crime and being a felon with a firearm, according to prosecutors.

He has a very long criminal history,” U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips said in court, according to City News Service. “This was a large amount of methamphetamine — and the way it was packaged, it was clearly for sale.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said authorities found “a fully loaded handgun hidden in a secret compartment in the driver’s side door” in addition to the drugs.

Police had pulled Renteria over in his Chevrolet Tahoe near downtown Los Angeles on Feb. 3, 2018, after spotting him driving “erratically and evasively” — and a search of Renteria’s SUV that he consented to revealed the black garbage bag stuffed with drugs on the floor right behind his driver’s seat, according to prosecutors.

“He wasn’t trying to sell a pound of meth disguised as burritos or trick anyone into thinking they’re real,” said Ciaran McEvoy, a U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesperson, according to the Palm Springs Desert Sun. “But he was probably hoping to avoid detection this way.”

Those kinds of tactics aren’t unusual, according to police.

“Narcotics dealers go to great lengths to conceal whatever narcotics it is they’re trying to move from one location to another,” Los Angeles police spokeswoman Meghan Aguilar said last year after Renteria’s arrest, the Washington Post reported. “Soda cans, books cut out in the middle. Only the imagination limits how far drug dealers will go.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office described the gun hidden in the SUV as “a fully loaded Smith & Wesson .38 Special revolver handgun.”

Officers arrested Renteria in the Angelino Heights neighborhood where he was pulled over and a grand jury indicted him the next month, according to prosecutors.

Though Renteria told the judge at his sentencing that she should “take into consideration (that) I have a family waiting for me — and I apologize for the situation I find myself in,” the judge responded that Renteria deserved a lengthy sentence “to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant,” City News Service reports.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.