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Manchester man pleads guilty to drug and weapons charges

Two New Hampshire men have pleaded guilty to selling heroin to a confidential informant in Manchester earlier this year.

Elmer Valladares Rivera pleaded guilty in federal court in Concord yesterday to nine felony charges, including two counts of possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. Rivera admitting to selling one of the weapons – a .38-caliber handgun – to the informant, who was cooperating with the Manchester Police Department.

The drug and gun sales were made at Rivera’s Manchester apartment, which he shared with his wife and three children, who are under age 10.

Rivera has a 2011 conviction in Hillsborough County Superior Court for possession of heroin and crack cocaine with intent to sell.

Rivera entered his pleas the day after co-defendant Israel “Izzy” Cruz pleaded guilty to seven counts of possessing and selling heroin.

Prosecutor Terry Ollila said yesterday that Cruz qualifies as a career criminal who has served more than five years behind bars for drug-related convictions. She said Cruz’s plea agreement calls for a 12½-year sentence.

Rivera, speaking through an interpreter in court yesterday, admitted to selling $200 bags of heroin to the informant numerous times in January and to selling the gun to the informant for $350 on Jan. 16.

When the Manchester police obtained a warrant and searched the Concord Street apartment Feb. 12, they found more than four grams of heroin and a loaded .44-caliber weapon and digital scale tucked inside a folded up futon mattress.

Rivera could have been sentenced to a maximum of 30 years, but federal sentencing guidelines bring that down to the 46-57-month range after applying various credits. Rivera agreed to a 57-month sentence.

Asked by U.S. District Chief Judge Joseph Laplante why he was pleading guilty, Rivera replied, “I think that’s a better deal,” and assured Laplante he really is guilty.

Although the quantity of heroin sold and seized in this case was relatively small, federal prosecutors agreed to handle it because of other factors involved.

“We will typically take smaller possession cases when you have guns involved and a prior record,” Ollila said. “Israel Cruz, for the next 12½ years, will be off the streets.”

Rivera is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 13.

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