Leader Of Anchorage Drug Ring Convicted Of Conspiracy And Possessing Machine Guns And Firearms In Furtherance Of Conspiracy
Over Six Kilograms of Cocaine, Three Pounds of Methamphetamine, 22 Ounces of Heroin
Two Machine Guns and Multiple Firearms Recovered in Joint State and Federal Investigation.
Anchorage, Alaska – United States Attorney Karen L. Loeffler announced that on June 18, 2009, a federal jury in Anchorage convicted Juan Manuel Mendiola, 28, of conspiring to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, 100 grams or more of heroin, and 50 grams or more of crack cocaine, and related drug crimes. The jury also convicted Mendiola of illegally possessing six firearms, including two fully automatic MAC-10 machine guns, in furtherance of his drug trafficking conspiracy. The investigation of Mendiola spanned three years, from July 2005 through September 2008; numerous agencies participated, including the Anchorage Police Department’s Drug Enforcement and Special Assignment Units, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Explosives, and the FBI Safe Streets Task Force. The federal prosecution was also assisted by employees funded by the municipality of Anchorage’s Anti-Gang and Youth Violence grant.
The trial began on June 7; thirty-eight witnesses testified for the prosecution. The testimony from witnesses revealed that Mendiola was the leader of the drug conspiracy. Testimony further showed that Mendiola ordered the drugs from areas in California, including Van Nuys and Lancaster. On March 13, 2007, a local shipping store owner in California discovered six kilograms of cocaine and one pound of methamphetamine in a parcel bound for an address in the Muldoon section of Anchorage. The DEA seized the package but could not do an undercover delivery, as the sender of the package apparently warned Mendiola of the interception of the package. At trial, testimony from cooperating witnesses, as well as photographs taken at the time, linked Mendiola to the seizure.
Mendiola was also linked to sales of cocaine, crack cocaine, and methamphetamine by accomplice Bernard White, a/k/a “Garcia,” during an Anchorage Police Department investigation in October 2007. Testimony showed that Mendiola was White’s source of drugs, and surveillance video of one of the drug sales revealed Mendiola’s presence in the passenger seat. During the arrest of White on October 31, 2007, the Anchorage Police Department executed a search warrant at a house on the lower hillside in Anchorage, and recovered approximately 1/2 kilogram of cocaine, drug paraphernalia, and five firearms, including two MAC-10 machine guns, a Keltec rifle, and two semi-automatic pistols. Mendiola and accomplice Phonesavanh Vongthongdy, a/k/a “Noi”, who had just left the residence prior to the execution of the search warrant, were linked to both the firearms and the drugs.
Testimony at trial revealed that, after these seizures, Mendiola and his girlfriend, Seirosa Milo, a/k/a “Losa,” imposed a curfew on another accomplice that they feared would cooperate with the police. When the accomplice broke curfew on one occasion, he was beaten by other members of the conspiracy. The accomplice’s father reported the incident to the Anchorage Police as a kidnaping, and the SWAT team responded to the residence on Cordova Street near Dowling. Upon approaching the residence, a police officer looking through a window saw Mendiola coming to the door with gun in his hand. A five-hour standoff ensued. Ultimately, a police dog was sent into the residence. Mendiola came out of the residence with his seven-year old son in front of him. The police dog jumped around the boy and bit Mendiola. Crack cocaine and drug paraphernalia was found in the residence, but testimony at trial indicated that the gun Mendiola was carrying was hidden under the house.
The defendant was initially arrested, but was later released and subsequently became a fugitive. In August 2008, the DEA seized approximately 12 ounces of heroin in a package bound for an address in Mountain View. The defendant’s girlfriend, Seirosa Milo, ultimately received the package and was arrested. Testimony at trial indicated that Milo received the package for Mendiola.
Finally, on September 19, 2008, the Anchorage Police Department Special Assignment Unit tracked the defendant to an address in Mountain View and obtained a search warrant. The defendant was found inside the residence with accomplice Timothy Moore, a/k/a “T.J.”. Officers found a large bag containing approximately one kilogram of crystal methamphetamine and ten ounces of heroin. Two loaded semi-automatic pistols were found in the kitchen; drug paraphernalia and approximately $50,000 in cash were also found in the bedroom. Mendiola was arrested, and then was indicted in federal court.
The jury convicted Mendiola of all eight counts in which he was charged, including Drug Conspiracy (Count 1), Distribution of Crack Cocaine (Count 3), Possession of Cocaine, Methamphetamine, and Heroin with intent to distribute (Counts 4, 13, & 14), Possession of Firearms and Machine Guns in Furtherance of Drug Conspiracy (Count 5), Illegal Possession of Machine Guns (Count 6), and a second charge of Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a drug trafficking crime (Count 18). The maximum penalties for the drug conspiracy charge include a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and maximum of life in prison, a $4 million fine, and at least five years of supervised release. The possession of machine guns in furtherance of drug trafficking carries a mandatory 30 year consecutive sentence, and the second conviction for possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime carries a mandatory 25 year consecutive sentence. Mendiola was also ordered to forfeit the firearms, a Cadillac, and over $50,000 in cash.
The trial judge, the Honorable James K. Singleton, Jr., stated that sentencing would be held in the first week of September 2010. Three of Mendiola’s co-defendants have already been sentenced by the Honorable Chief Judge Ralph R. Beistline, including Timothy Moore (262 months), Bernard White (96 months), Vaughan Erickson (70 months). Five other co-defendants, including Phonesavanh Vongthongdy, Kenese Sene, Seirosa Milo, Miguel Robles, Harold Graham, and Patrick Osburn are scheduled for sentencing in July and August. Two co-defendants, Diego Munoz, and Jose Ruis, are currently fugitives and being sought by authorities in California.