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Western Minnesota 'meth source' sentenced to nearly five years in prison

MONTEVIDEO -- Despite his attempt to withdraw his guilty plea just 11 days after submitting it, a 24-year-old Granite Falls man was sentenced Nov. 21 to serve nearly five years in prison for the possession and suspected sale of 1.75 pounds of met...

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MONTEVIDEO - Despite his attempt to withdraw his guilty plea just 11 days after submitting it, a 24-year-old Granite Falls man was sentenced Nov. 21 to serve nearly five years in prison for the possession and suspected sale of 1.75 pounds of meth.

Alejandro Mendez, once identified to law enforcement as "the main source of methamphetamine" in western Minnesota and eastern South Dakota, was sentenced last week in Chippewa County District Court to 57 months in prison, with credit for 152 days already served.

He pleaded guilty Oct. 6 to second-degree felony drug possession. An additional charge of first-degree drug sale was dismissed at sentencing as part of the plea agreement.

Authorities first detained Mendez after a June 22 traffic stop for a basic violation yielded meth, a large amount of U.S. currency and a digital scale in a vehicle in which he was a passenger.

It wasn't until the next day, after authorities reviewed calls Mendez made from the Kandiyohi County Jail where he had been temporarily detained, that the magnitude of the case was discovered.

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Mendez allegedly called a phone number registering to Texas, telling an individual there was a large amount of money in his apartment and requesting an individual retrieve all his "clothes" from his apartment.

An investigator listening to the call suspected "clothes" meant methamphetamine.

Law enforcement executed a search warrant the same day at a Granite Falls residence where Mendez lived and discovered six bags of meth totaling 1.75 pounds, or 785.5 grams.

In jail interviews, Mendez revealed to investigators that he had moved to western Minnesota from Texas recently because of a friend whom he called Flako.

Investigators knew Flako as the alias of Jose Trevino, a 25-year-old Cottonwood man also arrested in a recent large drug bust.

Trevino had been arrested in May after CEE-VI Drug Task Force investigators found 295 grams of methamphetamine and $11,565 in cash, multiple firearms, numerous rounds of ammunition, surveillance cameras, counter surveillance equipment, digital scales and drug packaging material in a home.

An individual told authorities that once Trevino was arrested in Cottonwood, the Mexico-based group for which Trevino works "sent Mendez to the area to fulfill distribution needs and clientele," according to the criminal complaint.

Trevino was facing multiple felony charges in Lyon County District Court for drug possession and sale, gun possession and child endangerment. He pleaded guilty Oct. 4 to felony first-degree drug possession and felony gun possession charges and was sentenced Nov. 14 to 104 months in prison.

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Past tips to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension described Mendez as the supplier for Trevino's methamphetamine.

In July, Mendez asked a judge to throw out some of the evidence that led to the search warrant of his home. He argued that one interview, in which he admitted to law enforcement that he knew Flako, was conducted without a Miranda warning.

Typically, law enforcement must give a Miranda warning before interrogating a suspect, letting the suspect know that he has a right to refuse to answer questions and a right to consult an attorney.

Ben Pieh, the attorney representing Mendez, filed a transcript of that interview with the motion to throw out the evidence.

The transcript indicates that not only was the Miranda warning not given in the interview, but the investigator mentioned that he would not give Mendez the warning.

" ... obviously we're not sitting here reading you Miranda, we're not here to talk about yesterday," the investigator told Mendez, according to the transcript.

In August, Judge Dwayne Knuten issued an order denying the request to throw out the evidence from that interview.

Even if that statement may have been misleading, the judge wrote, the investigator was not legally obligated to repeat the Miranda warning, because he already said it once upon Mendez's arrest the previous day.

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It is unclear from court documents if Mendez's attempt to withdraw his plea had anything to do with that failed motion to throw out evidence. The motion to withdraw was filed Oct. 17 with no comment or attached memorandum, and the judge sentenced Mendez based upon the previously agreed-upon plea.

Mendez is in custody at the Minnesota Department of Corrections facility in St. Cloud.

Related Topics: CRIME
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