News and Press Releases

Conviction Followed Year-long Undercover Investigation of Large Poly-drug Ring

February 7, 2008

ROBERTO MENDEZ-SANCHEZ, 32, of Mount Vernon, Washington, was sentenced today to twenty years in prison for multiple counts of drug trafficking. MENDEZ-SANCHEZ was convicted by a jury last month following a week-long trial. The conviction was the culmination of a year-long investigation of a drug dealing network in Skagit County, Washington. The organization, based in Sinaloa, Mexico, was transporting drugs to the northwest, and sending cash back to Mexico. MENDEZ-SANCHEZ and his co-conspirators distributed cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin.

MENDEZ-SANCHEZ had a prior drug conviction and so, by statute, faced a mandatory minimum twenty year prison term and ten year supervised release period. However, MENDEZ-SANCHEZ is a Mexican national and likely will be deported following his prison term. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Marsha J. Pechman said, “I think it is highly unlikely you will ever be welcome in the United States again.”

In all some 40 people were indicted in connection with this investigation. Thirty-three have pleaded guilty. Twenty-two have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from six months to ten years. Seven remain fugitives. MENDEZ-SANCHEZ was convicted of seven criminal charges: Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine, Conspiracy to Distribute Heroin, Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine, Distribution of Cocaine, Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Distribute, Distribution of Methamphetamine, and Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute.

On November 16, 2006, a federal grand jury returned charges following a year-long investigation by DEA and Skagit County Interlocal Drug Enforcement Unit (SCIDEU). On December 1, 2006, agents and officers arrested MENDEZ-SANCHEZ and 25 other defendants. Some of the defendants sold heroin to undercover agents on multiple occasions. Members of the drug organization sold guns as well as drugs to undercover officers. Other defendants transported money from Skagit County that was destined for Mexico. This group used sophisticated hidden compartments in vehicles to transport drugs and money. Using court authorized wire-taps, investigators monitored the ring’s activities for approximately four months.

Over the course of the investigation law enforcement made undercover purchases totaling ten pounds of methamphetamine, five pounds of heroin, and five pounds of cocaine. In addition, agents seized more than $100,000 from the organization.

This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved. The case was investigated by the DEA, Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco & Explosives (ATF), Skagit County Interlocal Drug Enforcement Unit (SCIDEU), the Washington State Patrol (WSP), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Northwest Regional Drug Task Force (NWRDTF), the Skagit County Sheriff’s Department, the Burlington Police Department and the Mount Vernon Police Department. The Anacortes Police Department, Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force, and the Marysville Police Department SWAT unit assisted with the law enforcement activities at the time of the arrests on December 1, 2006.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Doug Whalley, Matthew Diggs, and John J. Lulejian. Mr. Lulejian is now with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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