Saugus man in nationwide meth ring gets prison

Patrick M. Fry,left, and Travis Hills-Garcia, of Santa Clarita, were two of five picked up as part of a national drug trafficking ring in 2018.

The second of two Saugus men arrested two years ago for involvement in a nationwide meth-trafficking ring has been sentenced in a Pennsylvania court to a prison term of five to 10 years.

Joel Travis Hills-Garcia, 31, appeared Dec. 30 in Montgomery County Court for sentencing after pleading guilty to seven criminal counts, including manufacturing, delivering or possessing methamphetamine with the intent to deliver the drug.

The seven sentences are to be served concurrently, a spokeswoman for the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office said Monday.

Hills-Garcia and Patrick Fry, 45, were among five arrested Jan. 17, 2018,  after a nationwide multi-agency drug investigation pegged the “Big Five” as running a “multi-state drug trafficking organization” that mailed more than 350 pounds of meth across the country between California and Pennsylvania. 

Fry was sentenced in July to at least eight years in prison after pleading guilty in a negotiated deal with prosecutors to manufacturing, delivering or possessing methamphetamine with the intent to deliver the drug.

As part of the same plea deal, Fry was sentenced the same day to three years in prison after pleading guilty to being part of a corrupt organization. 

Several law enforcement agencies including the FBI dismantled the “multi-state drug trafficking organization that used the U.S. Postal Service to mail packages of crystal methamphetamine and marijuana from California to traffickers in Montgomery County dating back to at least April 2016 and the arrests of five leaders who spearheaded the corrupt organization.” 

The two local men were extradited to Pennsylvania shortly after their arrest.

In April 2019, Hills-Garcia pleaded guilty to being part of a corrupt organization and to manufacturing and delivering meth. His plea was not a negotiated deal with prosecutors, according to court documents.

Through the course of the investigation that led to the pair’s arrest, law enforcement identified what they believed to be more than 350 pounds of illegal crystal methamphetamine and marijuana sent in multiple shipments.

The multi-agency task force arrested the drug-running group’s leaders identified as residents of Ambler, Pennsylvania.

Also arrested in the task force operation was a 34-year-old man from Monrovia.

Fry, Hills-Garcia and the other three suspects were known during the investigation as “The Big Five.”

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