City man takes 10-year plea deal Thursday for motel drug bust


A man arrested this winter in one of the largest drug busts in the city in decades pled guilty Thursday in Cortland County Court in exchange for a 10-year prison sentence.

Thomas P. Martinez was arrested Dec. 2 for possessing cocaine and heroin with the intent to sell it at the Econo Lodge on Church Street, according to court documents. At the time of Martinez’s December arrest, he was released pending sentencing after he pled guilty Nov. 5 to possession of cocaine at his Bartlett Avenue apartment with the intent to sell it.

Martinez, 54, also agreed to forfeit the $1,094 in cash seized during the Econo Lodge drug bust.

When city police officers raided Martinez’s motel room they found 32 grams of cocaine, 48 bags of heroin, marijuana, the cash and two digital scales used to weigh and package controlled substances, according to the grand jury indictment.

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Assistant District Attorney Christopher Simser, Sr. enumerated Martinez’s lengthy criminal record  in the Thursday plea agreement.

“This defendant has a criminal record consisting of four felonies and three midemeanors in New York State,” Simser stated. “He has an extensive criminal record from the state of New Jersey.”

Former Assistant District Attorney Christine M. R. Ferraro noted in earlier court papers that Martinez was previously imprisoned on a drug-related crime.

“The defendant was previously sentenced to state prison for similar behavior,” Ferrero wrote, “and yet fails to lead a law abiding life.”

Before the December drug bust, Martinez’s November plea deal offered him a sentence of four years in prison and three years of post-release supervision. It was unclear what the status of that case was as of this evening. Under the terms of the agreement, the deal could be thrown out and Martinez sentenced to up to an additional 12-year-prison term with three years of post-release supervision.

The city faced a scourge of overdose deaths in 2020 and three deaths in the first 12 days of 2021, according to police records. Officers saw a 200 percent increase in drug deaths in 2020 as compared to 2018. As deaths soared, so did the cost of required autopsies: in October the County was facing a corresponding 200% increase in autopsy cost from 2018, bringing the total to $70,000.

At the Econo Lodge drug bust, city officers discovered wax bags used to package drugs that were stamped with a “brand” name of “Election 2020.”

Stamped wax bags are used by large drug trafficking organizations as a way of distinguishing their heroin from other types, said Lt. Michael Strangeway in December. The organizations are based in large metropolitan areas, and smuggle in drugs from China and Mexico, Strangeway said.