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Accused drug distributors appear in court

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Posted at 1:08 PM, Apr 22, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-22 15:08:51-04

OGDEN, Utah -- Three people who face felony charges for their alleged involvement in a former drug distribution ring appeared in court Tuesday morning for a preliminary hearing.

Maria Sabala, 43, Gabriel Juarez, 22, and Bobby Martinez, 37, all face felony charges of arranging to distribute a controlled substance and continuing criminal enterprise.

According to a press release issued in January by the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force, Sabala, Juarez and Martinez were involved in the direct distribution or re-distribution of methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana.

Late last year, Ogden police and local narcotic officers seized 15 pounds of methamphetamine, a pound of heroin and various other illegal drugs including marijuana, cocaine and psychedelic mushrooms.  Officers also seized hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and other assets.

At the preliminary hearing, some of the people who led a year-long investigation into the alleged drug ring talked about the text messages they reviewed and the cell phone calls they intercepted as part of their extensive probe.

Prosecutors said the alleged ringleader, Darren Lujan, worked closely with Sabala, Juarez, Martinez and several others in distributing the drugs.

Lujan's drug distribution organization was "sophisticated and complex," the press release said, and allowed for the distribution of methamphetamine from Arizona to northern Utah, Montana and North Dakota.

If convicted, the alleged co-conspirators could face lengthy prison terms.

In all, investigators said they identified 61 individuals who will be facing over 180 felony charges.