Law enforcement officials searched this Ontario home as part of their investigation into what they said was a multi-state drug trafficking enterprise. Two people were arrested in connection with the investigation. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)

Alma Pacheco was just two hours from home.

It was just before dawn on Sunday, Oct. 25, and she had about 100 miles to go when Oregon State Police troopers pulled her over in what authorities later said was a “coordinated traffic stop.”

They were on U.S. Highway 95, just west of the desert community of Rome. Pacheco was driving a 2015 Chevy Tahoe belonging to her passenger, Victor Gomez.

The license plate tags on the Tahoe had expired.

But it wasn’t a traffic violation that interested the troopers. The stop was planned as part of a multi-agency investigation into what was later described as a “long-term drug trafficking operation.”

According to later court filings, troopers got permission to search the Tahoe, discovering a trap door under the rear passenger seat. When they opened it, they pulled out 40 pounds of what was suspected to be crystal methamphetamine and a kilo of heroin, wrapped in packages.

Later in the day, police converged on Pacheco’s home, a single-wide mobile home tucked behind a short cyclone fence in northwest Ontario. Using a federal search warrant, they went through the home.

In a bathroom dresser, they found $10,000 in cash and a .380-caliber Davis Industries pistol, according to an affidavit filed by an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives. A three-quarter pound package of meth and a scale were found in laundry next to the dresser. Elsewhere in the house, police found another $65,000 in cash.

According to the ATF affidavit, Pacheco told a state police investigator that she had gone to California to get drugs and “confessed that she had been making trips to California to obtain narcotics for several years.”

The meth seizure is one of the largest in recent history in Malheur County, where authorities have been concerned with a surge in drug trafficking.

The estimated amount of meth would provide about 75,000 doses for users. A pound of meth in the area sells for $2,800 to $3,500, meaning the wholesale value of the meth recovered could be up to $143,000.

About 12 hours after the traffic stop, Pacheco and her passenger were arrested.

Pacheco, 42, whose full name is listed in court filings as Alma Lorena Pacheco Ortiz, was charged in U.S. District Court with possession of a controlled substance and being an alien illegally possessing a firearm.

Gomez, 26, of Ontario, who full name is listed in court filings as Victor Alejandro Gomez Casas, was charged in U.S. District Court with one count of possession of a controlled substance. Federal authorities listed him as being from Weiser, Idaho, but Malheur County authorities listed him at an Ontario apartment address.

A Malheur County Circuit Court grand jury separately indicted the two last Thursday, charging each with one count each of unlawful delivery of heroin, unlawful possession of heroin, unlawful distribution of methamphetamine and unlawful possession of methamphetamine, all felonies.

The two were being held on the state charges on $1.2 million bail in the Malheur County Jail.

Law enforcement officials say what estimate to be 40 pounds of methamphetamine and one kilo fo heroin were found in a secret compartment stopped by the Oregon State Police outside Rome on Sunday, Oct. 25. (U.S. Attorney's Office photo)

County and court records show Pacheco bought her Ontario property in 2009 but was deported to Mexico in 2013.

A law enforcement threat assessment issued last June found that “methamphetamine availability and trafficking continues to occur at a high level” in the region and that it “remains the area’s greatest drug threat.”

The report was prepared by the Oregon-Idaho High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area team.

The assessment said that crystal meth in the area is imported from Mexico and then moved through the region by drug trafficking organizations. The Pacheco case, involving suspected trafficking directly from California, is unusual in the region since drug organizations in Ada and Canyon counties in Idaho were identified in the threat assessment as the primary source of Malheur County’s meth.

According to the threat assessment, police in Malheur County seized a total of less than one pound of meth from 2016 to 2019.

“Rural communities across Oregon have been ravaged by the effects of methamphetamine addiction,” said U.S. Attorney Billy Williams. “We cannot succeed in breaking the cycle of addiction and affliction in these communities when individuals like the defendants, motivated by greed, continue to provide a steady supply of poison.”

Ontario Police Chief Steven Romero said “communities are struggling to reduce or eliminate the physical and mental damage caused to individuals and communities by illicit drug addiction. Area law enforcement continue to use a ‘force multiplier’ approach for disrupting or dismantling international, multi-state and local drug trafficking and money laundering organizations.”

According to the federal statement, the investigation of Pacheco involved ATF, the Oregon State Police, the Ontario Police Department and the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office.

Law enforcement officials say what estimate to be 40 pounds of methamphetamine and one kilo fo heroin were found in a secret compartment stopped by the Oregon State Police outside Rome on Sunday, Oct. 25. (U.S. Attorney's Office photo)

Alma Pacheco, 52, of Ontario, has been charged with federal and state drug crimes after her arrest on Sunday, Oct. 25. (Malheur County Sheriff's Office photo)

Victor Gomez, 26, of Ontario, has been charged with federal and state drug crimes after his arrest on Sunday, Oct. 25. (Malheur County Sheriff's Office photo)

Contact Editor Les Zaitz by email at [email protected]

CORRECTION: The photo originally published with this article showed a different property than the one searched. The Enterprise apologizes for the error.

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