Inmate who ran drug smuggling ring from his cell gets 20 years

SAN DIEGO — An inmate who, from his cell, ran a ring that smuggled drugs and cellphones into San Diego County’s Richard J. Donovan State Prison, was sentenced Monday to 20 years in federal prison.

Martin Gomez, who’s currently housed at Lancaster State Prison, is among 10 defendants who have pleaded guilty in the contraband conspiracy.

Prosecutors say that while Gomez was a Donovan inmate, he arranged for people outside the prison to deliver drugs — including methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana — and cellphones to Corrections Officer Anibal Navarro, 40, of Chula Vista.

Navarro admitted delivering the contraband to inmates throughout the prison and was paid between $1,000 to $2,000 for each transaction, prosecutors said.

The narcotics and cellphones were distributed to other inmates throughout the prison, while the phones were also used “to coordinate criminal activity both inside and outside the facility,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Gomez, 58, was later transferred to another prison, but the scheme continued for more than two years, according to prosecutors.

“This defendant personally profited from a corrupt drug smuggling scheme that significantly interfered with the rehabilitation of his fellow inmates,” U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer said. “He also created a dangerous prison environment by providing cell phones, which can result in drug trafficking, fraud, and even violence.”

The last defendant awaiting trial, Donovan inmate Juan Gutierrez, 44, had his case delayed when he struck his own attorney in open court earlier this year, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. His trial is currently set for Jan. 21.

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