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7,800 Packages Of Meth, Fentanyl And Heroin Mailed Across US From San Diego

Fentanyl pills pictured from a seizure in San Diego, Sept. 14, 2018.

Credit: Office of the United States Attorney

Above: Fentanyl pills pictured from a seizure in San Diego, Sept. 14, 2018.

A San Diego-based drug trafficking scheme shipped thousands of packages of fentanyl, heroin and methamphetamine to cities across the country, according to documents filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. They show Erik Alexis Martineau pleaded guilty this month to dropping 7,800 parcels of drugs in mail collection boxes around San Diego County.

The case highlights how traffickers are expanding their operations through the postal service, a trend that an assistant U.S. attorney warns is becoming increasingly common.

Federal court documents show 50-year-old Martineau shipped about 100 boxes a week over 18 months to people who placed orders using a hidden part of the internet known as the dark web.

Listen to this story by Tarryn Mento.

RELATED: Meth Is Easy To Get In San Diego, But Addiction Is Hard To Treat

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri Walker Hobson, who prosecuted the case, said drug distributors are tapping into the postal service partly because it's reliable.

"They’re so good that the traffickers are now manipulating it," Walker Hobson said.

Plus, the dark web makes it easy for users to buy drugs from anywhere.

"You don’t need to go to the wrong side of town and meet a gang member to buy your cocaine — you can just order it online," Walker Hobson said.

She said investigators with the U.S. Postal Service and Department of Homeland Security are seeing "more and more" of these cases.

RELATED: ME Report: Suicides, Fentanyl Deaths Rose Countywide In 2018

The network involving Martineau distributed at least 30 pounds of methamphetamine a month, Walker Hobson said, and other substances that were smuggled through Calexico and San Diego. Martineau was directed by co-conspirators to package the correct amount of each substance at a storage facility and mail them out, according to court documents.

The records show Martineau printed shipping labels using a business account at an office supply store and dropped parcels into blue postal boxes at various locations in the county.

Investigators followed Martineau in January of last year as he moved from one collection box to another and found packages addressed to Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wisconsin. They later filed warrants for the packages when they reached their destinations and discovered controlled substances inside.

Walker Hobson said investigators were first turned on to the operation after a parcel containing drugs couldn't be delivered and was mailed back to the return address on the package. However, that address didn't belong to Martineau and the package landed in the possession of uninvolved residents. They returned it to the postal service where employees came upon its illegal contents.

Martineau, who pleaded guilty on Jan. 9, faces at least 10 years in prison and up to a $10 million fine. He's scheduled to be sentenced in March. Another person accused in the scheme was arrested in August. That case is ongoing.

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Photo of Tarryn Mento

Tarryn Mento
Health Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksThe health beat is about more than just illness, medicine and hospitals. I examine what impacts the wellness of humans and their communities.

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