Prison sentence for Woodland man arrested in California organized crime investigation

·2 min read

A federal judge handed down a 15-year prison sentence for a Woodland man who tried to escape capture by running through a back door while carrying a pound of cocaine and a loaded handgun, prosecutors said.

U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley on Oct. 21 sentenced Israel Covarrubias, 29, to 15 years in federal prison for a conviction of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and carrying a gun during and in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento.

Covarrubias was among 21 people charged in federal court as the result of a two-year local, state and federal investigation that uncovered organized crime in Yolo County with ties to criminal organizations in California’s jail and prison system, federal prosecutors said at the time.

The criminal activity focused on sales of weapons, cocaine, methamphetamine and prescription drugs. In some instances, prison inmates allegedly directed the defendants not incarcerated to smuggle drugs into the prison or to sell and distribute narcotics outside the prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The investigation culminated on the morning of Feb. 14, 2018, when law enforcement officers in a joint operation served 69 federal search warrants and conducted parole or probation searches at various locations throughout Northern California. Prosecutors said 10 additional people were arrested on state criminal charges during the operation.

Covarrubias and others sold meth to a confidential informant working for law enforcement, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

When investigators in 2018 served a search warrant at Covarrubias’ home, he fled out the back door with a loaded Glock pistol and a pound of cocaine as officers entered through the front door, prosecutors said. Covarrubias was taken into custody that day along with the 30 others arrested.

Investigators uncovered the criminal activity by intercepting communications, including cellphone calls, Facebook and Instagram messages, and “clandestine communications” on Snapchat and other online platforms, prosecutors said.

The investigation called “Operation Silent Night” focused on organized crime in Yolo County that extended to nine other California counties: Sacramento, Sutter, Colusa, Yuba, Del Norte, Solano, Fresno, Santa Clara and Siskiyou counties.

The investigation was led by the FBI, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Woodland Police Department, the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office and the California Highway Patrol.

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