3 Southern Oregon drug traffickers pled guilty in federal court

MEDFORD, Ore. – Three Southern Oregon drug traffickers, including the head of a Klamath Falls drug trafficking operation, pled guilty in federal court this week for multiple charges related to drug trafficking.

According to a press release, Juan Jessie Martinez-Gil, 59 of Reno, pled guilty to conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute fentanyl and methamphetamine.  Candice Nadine McKee, 31 of Lakeview, pled guilty to possessing with intent to distribute fentanyl.  McKee was a distributor in Martinez-Gil’s network, according to the press release.

According to court documents, Martinez-Gil, the head of a Klamath Falls area drug organization, worked with multiple others, including McKee, to distribute large amounts of methamphetamine and fentanyl in the form of counterfeit Oxycodone pills between August 2019 and September 2021.  The pills were sold in and around Klamath Falls.

A law enforcement operation in September 2021 led to Martinez-Gil’s arrest along with several of his associates.  Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement agencies seized around 17 pounds of meth and 700 counterfeit pills.

Martinez-Gil will be sentenced on February 22, 2024.  He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison with a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence.

McKee will be sentenced the same day and faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.

In a separate criminal case, Jessie Cole Merkel, 31 of Redding, pled guilty to distributing fentanyl.

According to court documents, Merkel sold fentanyl to undercover law enforcement officers on two different occasions between February and April 2022.

On April 14, 2022, Merkel was arrested while traveling from California to Oregon.

Merkel will be sentenced on February 22, 2024.  He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $1 million fine, and three years supervised release.

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Taylar Ansures is a producer and reporter for NBC5 News. Taylar is from Redding, California and went to California State University, Chico. After graduating, she joined KRCR News Channel 7 in Redding as a morning producer. She moved to Southern Oregon in 2022 to be closer to family and became KTVL News 10’s digital producer. Taylar is currently finishing her Master's Degree in Professional Creative Writing through the University of Denver. In her free time, Taylar frequents independent bookstores and explores hiking trails across Southern Oregon and Northern California.
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