ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – A 45-year-old St. Paul man was sentenced to 21 years in prison in St. Paul federal court on Monday for his role in a large drug trafficking operation in Minnesota between 2005 and October of 2010.
Jesus “Jesse” Mendoza was sentenced on one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five more or more kilograms of cocaine and 100 or more kilograms of marijuana. He was also sentenced for aiding and abetting money laundering in connection with the case. Mendoza was charged along with nine others on Jan. 19, 2011, and pleaded guilty on July 28, 2011.
Officials in the case said before his arrest, Mendoza was the long-tenured leader of a drug trafficking operation to distribute illicit drugs and launder money. The group used private aircraft and commercial vehicles to smuggle cocaine and marijuana from California to Minnesota. Mendoza made millions of dollars running the operation.
In the plea agreement, Mendoza admitted to leading the drug trafficking ring before getting arrested in December of 2010. He coordinated the shipment of the drugs, which included methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana and admitted that they were transported by car, commercial truck and even aircraft.
He also admitted to attempting to manufacture marijuana by supplying $100,000 to equip a 1,000 plant operation and getting a co-conspirator to operate it. Nine of the co-conspirators have already pleaded guilty and six have been sentenced.
Authorities said they’ve seized more than $2 million in assets related to the operation, including seven vehicles, two motorcycles, more than $187,000 in cash, two residential properties and about $700,000 in jewelry.