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5 years sought for cocaine trafficker known as 'Vector'

A man reportedly known as “Vector” in Southern Oregon drug-trafficking circles faces at least 2-1/2 years in prison for selling a quarter-pound of cocaine to an undercover federal agent last summer, though federal prosecutors will seek a sentence twice that length.

Victor Vega Padilla will be sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Medford after earlier this year admitting he sold more than four ounces of cocaine to an undercover Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent June 30, in what Padilla believed was a $5,200 hand-off at a shopping center parking lot outside Eugene.

Padilla faces a suggested sentence of between 30 and 37 months in prison, but citing involvement with other suspected drug dealers facing pending charges, federal prosecutors seek a five-year prison sentence, according to a brief filed Wednesday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“Defendant has admitted guilt to the single count indictment alleging possession with intent to distribute cocaine, but this case does not represent the defendant’s first foray into the world of drug smuggling,” prosecutors’ sentencing brief states.

The agent reportedly met Padilla while investigating another man suspected of trafficking cocaine in the Medford area, Johnathan Alan Ochoa, charged in U.S. District Court with aiding and abetting, possessing with intent to distribute cocaine, possessing and conspiring to possess a machine gun and firearm silencer in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and conspiring to commit a drug offense.

The full details behind Ochoa’s charges are sealed in court records, but on June 13, Ochoa allegedly sold the informant two ounces of cocaine for $2,800 at the Shoppes at Gateway, near the Eugene-Springfield border, Padilla’s sentencing brief indicates.

The informant met Padilla while negotiating a four-ounce cocaine purchase with Ochoa the week before the June 30 hand-off, investigators say.

“Ochoa connected the (informant) to another individual by the name of ‘Vector’ as an additional source of cocaine,” the sentencing brief says. “Vector was later identified as Victor Padilla, defendant in the instant offense.”

Padilla ultimately delivered 116 grams of cocaine to the undercover agent at the same Springfield hand-off spot.

Citing information from another witness, U.S. attorneys say Padilla also facilitated cocaine deals with another suspected dealer out of Fresno: Gonzalo Manzo Jr., a defendant in Ochoa’s case. Manzo remains lodged in the Jackson County Jail facing federal charges of possessing cocaine with intent to distribute and possessing a machine gun and firearm silencer in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime.

“(Padilla) and Manzo traveled together to Medford for the purposes of facilitating these drug deals approximately four times,” prosecutors’ sentencing brief states. “The same witness indicated that (Padilla) also assisted in the exchange of four pounds of methamphetamine with Manzo and provided methamphetamine to another individual in Phoenix, Oregon on a separate occasion.”

U.S. attorneys also mention an incident when Padilla provided Manzo with a 9 mm handgun with extended clip.

“His conduct is representative of his larger role in Southern Oregon as a consistent drug smuggler facilitating both drug and firearms deals for serious drug traffickers,” the sentencing brief states.

Padilla will be sentenced Monday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Medford. The case involving Ochoa and Manzo is pending grand jury charges, with their next hearings scheduled for June.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

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