MASSACHUSETTS MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO COCAINE TRAFFICKING
Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in New England and Kevin J. O'Connor, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that JAIME MENDEZ, age 40, of Revere, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine. United States Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkel accepted MENDEZ' plea of guilty this afternoon in Bridgeport federal court.
On October 26, 2000, MENDEZ was arrested on the Massachusetts Turnpike when Massachusetts State Troopers pulled over the van he was driving for a routine traffic violation. A subsequent search of the van revealed ten kilograms of cocaine in the back seat. The stop sparked a lengthy investigation by Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Connecticut that resulted in a multi-count indictment charging numerous individuals, including members of a Colombian drug cartel, with drug conspiracy charges. The investigation revealed that the ten kilograms found in MENDEZ's vehicle were transferred to MENDEZ and the passenger of the van, David Taborda, in Stamford , Connecticut , and had emanated from a drug cartel in Colombia . The investigation further revealed efforts by the drug cartel to recoup its loss following the seizure of the drugs by Massachusetts State Troopers.
MENDEZ proceeded to trial on state charges in Massachusetts and was convicted in August 2001. MENDEZ's conviction was subsequently overturned by a Massachusetts appellate court based on a conflict of interest of his trial counsel, and a new trial was ordered. MENDEZ was pending retrial in Massachusetts when the U.S. Attorney's Office in Connecticut re-instituted its charges against MENDEZ. Massachusetts authorities will drop their charges against MENDEZ when he is sentenced in Connecticut , which is currently scheduled for February 10, 2005. At that time, MENDEZ faces a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of ten years and a maximum term of life.
Since MENDEZ's arrest, four people have pleaded guilty in Connecticut to the drug conspiracy charge, including Taborda, Hector Dario Puerta and Johny Diez. All have received ten-year sentences from United States District Judge Stephan Underhill.
Special Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Connecticut investigated the case.