Winton man given 10-year sentence in meth case

September 8, 2013 

— A 50-year-old Winton man was sentenced by a judge Wednesday to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to methamphetamine-related charges.

Armando Blanco was arrested Aug. 20 during an operation conducted by the Merced Multi-Agency Narcotics Task Force, according to Deputy District Attorney Michael McKinney, the prosecutor in the case.

Blanco pleaded guilty to charges of manufacturing methamphetamine, having children in a location where methamphetamine was being made, possessing methamphetamine for sale, transporting methamphetamine and enhancements for having more than 3 pounds of methamphetamine.

McKinney said agents used wiretaps during their investigation, which happened over the course of several months.

The plea wasn't the result of an agreement reached with the prosecution, and Blanco would have faced a maximum of 14 years in prison had the case gone to trial. He was sentenced by Judge Mark Bacciarini.

"The number of narcotics he was distributing throughout the county justified a prison sentence," McKinney said.

The prosecution believes Blanco was the head of a drug trafficking organization and had been bringing powdered methamphetamine from outside Merced County and converting it into crystal form locally.

He was distributing the drug to dealers, according to prosecutors.

Agents served search warrants at six locations: Amanda Street in Winton, Yvonne Court in Delhi, Fortuna Street in Atwater, Palm Avenue in Atwater, Fir Avenue in Atwater and Walnut Avenue in Winton.

During the searches agents seized nearly 8 pounds of methamphetamine, four firearms and 3.3 grams of cocaine. Agents also eradicated two marijuana groves connected with the drug operation.

McKinney said agents determined two children had been staying at the Yvonne Court location where they said methamphetamine was being made.

Six additional people are facing charges in connection with the investigation.

Blanco will be eligible for parole after serving about half of his sentence in state prison, McKinney said.

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