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The original item was published from 10/18/2016 5:14:51 PM to 11/6/2016 12:00:02 AM.

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Posted on: October 18, 2016

[ARCHIVED] Leader of drug-trafficking operation pleads guilty in federal court

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The man believed to have been the leader of an extensive drug-trafficking operation in Chaves County has been convicted in federal court on charges related to his crimes. He and others were arrested last year following a multi-agency investigation that included the Roswell Police Department and Chaves County Metro Narcotics Task Force. Information from the U.S. Attorney’s Office:

Joseph Ray Mendiola, 35, of Roswell, pleaded guilty Tuesday, Oct. 18, in federal court in Las Cruces to methamphetamine- and cocaine-trafficking charges. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Mendiola will be sentenced within the range of 120 to 180 months in prison followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court.

Mendiola is one of 41 individuals charged in September 2015 with drug-trafficking offenses as a result of an eight-month multi-agency investigation by the FBI, the DEA, Chaves County Metro Narcotics Task Force, Roswell Police Department, Chaves County Sheriff’s Office and New Mexico State Police and U.S Marshals Service.

The investigation, which was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces program, initially targeted a drug trafficking organization allegedly led by Mendiola that distributed methamphetamine in Chaves County. It later expanded to include drug traffickers who allegedly supplied methamphetamine to the Mendiola organization and other drug traffickers operating in Chaves County.

Mendiola and 15 other federal defendants were charged in a 24-count indictment filed Sept. 22, 2015. All crimes charged in the federal indictment occurred in Chaves County.

During the course of the investigation, law enforcement officers executed 14 federal search warrants for 10 residences in Roswell, one residence in Dexter, and three vehicles. During the execution of those search warrants, officers seized approximately 5,600 grams of methamphetamine, $35,960 in cash, and multiple firearms, including two assault rifles.

During Tuesday’s proceedings, Mendiola pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess methamphetamine and cocaine with intent to distribute and possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. In entering the guilty plea, Mendiola admitted conspiring with his co-defendants to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine in Chaves County from June 2015 through July 31, 2015. Mendiola also admitted that on July 25, 2015, and July 31, 2015, he and a co-defendant arranged to purchase two pounds of methamphetamine with the intention of distributing it to others. Mendiola remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing which has yet to be scheduled.

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