Foreign National Pleads Guilty To Role In Drug Trafficking Organization
Jesus Orlando Mendez-Velasquez, 33, a citizen of Mexico who most recently resided in Salt Lake City, Utah, entered a plea of guilty on April 11, 2013, to Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess With the Intent to Distribute Cocaine (Count 1), the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen R. Wigginton, announced today. Mendez-Velasquez had been charged on August 22, 2012, in an eleven count indictment charging a total of ten individuals with being members of a large drug trafficking organization. Mendez-Velasquez is currently scheduled to be sentenced at 9:00 a.m., on January 13, 2014, at which time he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of twenty (20) years imprisonment up to a potential maximum sentence of life imprisonment, followed by a term of supervised release of not less than ten years, a $10,000,000 fine, and a $100 special assessment. Although he entered a guilty plea as to Count 1 of the Indictment, he persisted in his “not guilty” pleas as to Count 2 (Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess With the Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine) and Count 11 (Interstate Travel in Support of Racketeering) and is currently scheduled for trial on those counts on November 4, 2013. The Defendant is presumed innocent of those two counts because an indictment is only a formal charge against him. Under the law, a defendant is presumed to be innocent of a charge and is entitled to a fair trial at which the Government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The Defendant was given notice prior to his plea, that the United States intended to seek a Judicial Order of Removal, which would require his deportation following the service of any term of imprisonment.
According to the Stipulation of Facts which was filed with the Court at the time of the plea, Mendez-Velasquez was the leader of the organization charged in the Indictment, which was responsible for importing cocaine from Mexico into the United States, where it was eventually taken to Salt Lake City, Utah. From Salt Lake City, the cocaine was transported by members of the conspiracy to the St. Louis Metropolitan area where it was distributed by various members of the organization, including some who operated within the Southern District of Illinois. Proceeds for the sales of the cocaine were then transported back to the leaders of the conspiracy in Salt Lake City.
Of the nine individuals named in the indictment with Mendez-Velasquez, seven others have entered pleas of guilty; one other has been arrested and is awaiting trial; one is a fugitive. Those not yet convicted are presumed innocent for the reason set forth in the first paragraph, above.
Evidence in support of the indictment in this case was obtained in an investigation which was conducted under the auspices of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The OCDETF initiative is designed to bring federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and resources together to identify, target and dismantle large national and international drug trafficking organizations. Participating agencies include the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Homeland Security Investigations (ICE HSI), U.S. Marshal Service, the Granite City Police Department, Fairview Heights Police Department, the Collinsville Police Department, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the St. Louis County (Missouri) Police Department, the St. Charles County (Missouri) Sheriff's Department, and the Nebraska State Patrol.
This case is assigned to Assistant United States Attorney Randy G. Massey for prosecution.