Chief U.S. District Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater sentenced a 20-year-old man to 10 years in federal prison Friday relating to a cache of heroin seized during a Department of Public Safety traffic stop in Ellis County in August.

Orbelin Martinez Jr. of South Carolina had pleaded guilty in December to one count of possession with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, according to information released by U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks of the Northern District of Texas, who made the announcement after the sentencing hearing.

The 6 kilograms (15 pounds) of heroin recovered during the traffic stop is believed to be the largest heroin bust ever in Ellis County, with authorities estimating the drug’s street value at about $500,000.

It was a Georgia paper license plate bearing only a date and no number on Martinez’ Ford F-150 that prompted the traffic stop, trooper Lee Coronado told the Daily Light in an interview at the time.

Coronado said he made contact with Martinez, the vehicle’s driver and only occupant, only to find that “his story didn’t add up.”

“He really couldn’t explain the purpose of his trip. He said the vehicle was recently purchased – and he was on his way to go visit his mother,” Coronado said. “Mr. Martinez said he was out of work and unemployed, that he had bought the truck, but his mother gave him the down payment. He’s from South Carolina, but happened to buy the truck in Georgia, which is a current hot spot for drug activity. It’s a known hot spot to our intel(ligence).”

Martinez consented to a vehicle search, Coronado said, noting that trooper Ricky Barner’s canine officer, Billy, alerted to the vehicle.

“We saw that there were screws missing on the air conditioning and the dash looked like it had been recently tampered with,” Coronado said, saying the troopers utilized a camera probe in their inspection. “We were able to put the probe into a space and see where the bundles were inside.”

In all, five tightly wrapped bundles in black plastic were retrieved after the glove compartment was removed, with a field test indicating a positive result for heroin. Martinez, who was taken into custody, “denied all knowledge” about the drugs, Coronado said.

DPS and the Drug Enforcement Administration investigated the case, with the prosecution handled by Deputy Criminal Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Tromblay.

Contact JoAnn at or 469-517-1452.