leader of anchorage drug ring sentenced to 65 years in federal prison for drug and firearm crimes
Convicted of Three-year Conspiracy Involving Pounds of Cocaine, Crack Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Heroin, Multiple Stolen Machine Guns, and Other Firearms
ANCHORAGE, ALASKA – United States Attorney Karen L. Loeffler announced that on September 9, 2010, Juan Manuel Mendiola, of Anchorage, was sentenced to 65 years in prison without the possibility of parole on drug trafficking conspiracy and firearms charges.
Senior United States District Judge James K. Singleton imposed the sentence on Mendiola, age 28.
On June 18, 2010, a federal jury convicted Mendiola 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.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Russo, the lead prosecutor in the case, the testimony from witnesses during the two-week trial revealed that Mendiola was the leader of a violent drug conspiracy operating in Anchorage. Mendiola obtained drugs from areas in California, including Van Nuys and Lancaster. Cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin would be shipped through FedEx or UPS to residences in Anchorage controlled by Mendiola or his accomplices. Some of the cocaine was converted into crack cocaine at these residences, and the drugs were then distributed in Anchorage and other cities, including Kodiak and Valdez.
Testimony at trial showed that Mendiola possessed firearms in furtherance of his drug trafficking crimes. On October 31, 2007, APD recovered five firearms, including two stolen machine guns, at a residence controlled by Mendiola. Two additional stolen firearms were recovered on September 19, 2008, when Mendiola was arrested on outstanding warrants. During the course of the investigation, over six kilograms of cocaine, three pounds of methamphetamine, 22 ounces of heroin, and over $100,000 in cash were seized. Mendiola was ordered to forfeit the currency, a Cadillac Deville, and firearms that facilitated his drug trafficking business.
The testimony at trial further indicated that Mendiola was constantly on the run from police, and engaged in a standoff with police in March 2008 after Mendiola ordered the assault of an accomplice who Mendiola feared was cooperating with police. Police responded to 5711 Cordova Street on March 10, 2008, after receiving a report that Mendiola was holding an individual against his will after he was beaten on orders from Mendiola. Upon arrival, police knocked on the door, and an officer saw Mendiola come to the door with a pistol in his hand. Police took cover, and Mendiola proceeded to hide inside the residence for several hours and did not respond to police requests to surrender. Ultimately, a police dog was sent inside the residence. Mendiola came out of a bedroom with his seven year-old son, whom he positioned between the police dog and himself. The dog jumped around the boy and bit Mendiola after Mendiola made a sudden movement.
After his arrest in September 2008, testimony at trial revealed that, while in jail, Mendiola had placed “a hit” on an another accomplice that Mendiola believed was cooperating with police. An enforcer of Mendiola’s, Phonesavanh Vongthongdy, was arrested in December 2008 with a newspaper photograph of the accomplice in his pocket. Vongthongdy was sentenced to 17 years in prison last July for his role in the conspiracy. Another person identified as Mendiola’s “muscle,” Timothy Ray Moore, was sentenced to over 21 years in prison last June. In total, ten members of Mendiola’s drug conspiracy have been convicted.
Mendiola faced a mandatory minimum ten years on the drug convictions and a mandatory minimum 55 years on possessing machine guns and firearms in furtherance of his drug trafficking crimes. Judge Singleton ordered that those sentences be served consecutively, as required by law. Mendiola has a criminal history involving the possession of drugs and weapons, including a 2002 incident involving a drive-by shooting, for which he served 18 months in jail.
“Drug crime and gang violence will not be tolerated in our communities. As this sentence demonstrates, those that participate in these illegal activities, repeatedly preying on our youth and our community, will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” said Ms. Loeffler. Loeffler also praised the Municipality of Anchorage’s Anti-Gang and Youth Violence program, which funds a prosecutor who assisted in the prosecution of Mendiola: “The continued commitment to lend resources to this program demonstrates that the Mayor and the Municipality of Anchorage has put a priority on protecting the community from violent gang activity.”
Numerous federal and state agencies participated in the investigation and prosecution of Mendiola, 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. Both the Department of Public Safety and the Anchorage Police Department crime laboratories provided forensic assistance and testimony.