Billings, Montana - A Mexican citizen convicted in an investigation in which law enforcement seized 34 pounds of meth, worth an estimated $1.5 million, from a hotel room was sentenced to 57 months in prison and five years of supervised release on Wednesday, U.S. Kurt Alme said.
Jorge Luis Mendez-Sanchez, 35, of Mexico, pleaded guilty in January to possession with intent to distribute meth.
Thirty four pounds of meth is the equivalent of about 123,216 doses and has an estimated street value of $1.54 million.
U.S. District Judge Susan Watters presided.
Prosecutors said in court records that a confidential informant for the Eastern Montana High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force learned in July 2018 from a source of meth named Oscar that a relative was flying to Billings from Salt Lake City to conduct the sale of 35 pounds of meth. The meth was coming from Oscar’s associates, who included Mendez-Sanchez and co-defendant, Aldo Pardini.
Agents identified another co-defendant, Jose Jesus Islava-Lopez, as Oscar’s relative and followed him from the Billings airport to a Billings hotel. Islava-Lopez checked into a room and met with Pardini in the parking lot. Pardini and Mendez-Sanchez, who were staying together in a separate room, had transported the meth for the proposed sale together from Arizona in Pardini’s car.
Agents detained Islava-Lopez in the lobby. Islava-Lopez told the agents that Oscar had directed him to fly to Billings for a job, rent a room at the hotel and meet a person in a car in the parking lot. After meeting Pardini in the parking lot, Islava-Lopez went to the room shared by Pardini and Mendez-Sanchez and took a suitcase Pardini gave him back to his own room. Investigators served search warrants on both hotel rooms and the vehicle and found about 34 pounds of meth in Islava-Lopez’s room.
Islava-Lopez and Pardini have pleaded guilty in the case and are awaiting sentencing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Colin Rubich prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the FBI Task Force and Eastern Montana High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force.
The case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), which is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.