A man has been sentenced to 17 years in federal prison for heroin trafficking and illegally entering the country.

Jose Lizarraras-Chacon, 38, of Nayarit, Mexico, on Monday, April 8, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez to 210 months, or about 17-1/2 years, in federal prison. His wife and co-defendant Maria Gonzalez-Torres, 31, has already been sentenced to five years in prison for heroin trafficking and food stamp COURTESY: MULTNOMAH COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE - Jose Lizarraras-Chacon

Portland Police in the fall of 2011 began investigating a tip about a husband-wife team selling large quantities of heroin throughout the Portland metro area, said Sue Rutledge, with the Department of Justice.

The couple fielded phoned-in heroin orders that they delivered throughout the Portland-metro area, often accompanied by their baby and two other children, ages 4 and 7. Earlier in 2011, the St. Helens Police Department also investigated the same husband-wife team, and that evidence was charged in the federal indictment as part of the yearlong conspiracy to distribute heroin, said Gerri Badden, with the Department of Justice.

Undercover police arranged to buy heroin from the couple on Nov. 29, 2011. Gonzalez-Torres answered the phone, made the deal and indicated they would deliver the heroin soon. Surveillance officers saw the husband-wife team leave their apartment. She got into a car carrying a baby in a car seat and followed her husband, who was driving another car along with the two older children.

Police pulled over the woman as she was en route to the agreed-upon delivery location. An officer found 5 ounces of heroin hidden in the woman’s bra and more than $300 in her diaper bag.

At their apartment at East Burnside Road and 179th Avenue, officers seized $84,000 stashed all over the home, nearly 1 pound of heroin hidden in a diaper trashcan and a loaded semi-automatic weapon in a hall closet.

Gonzalez-Torres told police she was part of her husband’s heroin business and hadn’t had a legitimate job in four years. She also said they saved the cash that police found to build a home in Mexico.

The drug proceeds were forfeited to the United States government, which provided funds that paid for the $1,100 a month in federal benefits, including food stamps, that the family was receiving.

In 2010, Lizarraras-Chacon was convicted in Clackamas County of unlawful heroin delivery and was deported to Mexico. He then returned to the United States illegally and continued to distribute heroin.

The couple’s four children are now in foster homes, said Gene Evans, communications director for the state’s Department of Human Services.

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