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Convicted leader of San Angelo, Texas, methamphetamine and marijuana drug trafficking organization sentenced to nearly 21 years in federal prison

LUBBOCK, Texas — A Texas man who headed a methamphetamine and marijuana drug trafficking organization in San Angelo, Texas, was sentenced on Friday by U.S. District Judge Sam R. Cummings to 20 years and 10 months in federal prison.

Rodney Mendez, 27, aka "Pee Wee," pleaded guilty in July to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

In addition, codefendants Juan Anthony Bautista, 27, and Henry Pena Mendez, 45, who also pleaded guilty in July to their roles in the conspiracy, were sentenced to 87 months and 120 months, respectively. U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas announced the sentences.

The case was investigated by the following agencies: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the San Angelo Police Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety, Tom Green County Sheriff's Office and the Tom Green County District Attorney's Office.

Mendez and seven other defendants, all from San Angelo, were charged in a 15-count indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in May. The indictment charged them with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine and 50 kilograms or more of marijuana. Some of the defendants were also charged with at least one substantive drug distribution count. All of the defendants have pleaded guilty.

The following three defendants had already been sentenced: Elizabeth Escobedo, 41, to 21 months in federal prison; Gabriel Solis Jr., 27, to 30 months in federal prison; and Daniel Avila Jr., 24, to 37 months in federal prison. Defendant Victor Lombrana, 23, is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 21.

According to plea documents filed in the case, Rodney Mendez admitted that from August 2008 to about May 11, 2011, he, Lombrana, Henry Mendez, and others, agreed to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

In August 2008, law enforcement began investigating the narcotics trafficking activities of Rodney Mendez, who recruited friends and family members to help facilitate his trafficking. His methamphetamine source was in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and his marijuana source was in the southern part of Texas. He or other co-conspirators transported the drugs to San Angelo and other destinations, inside and outside the Northern District of Texas. When the methamphetamine and marijuana arrived in San Angelo, Rodney Mendez and his co-conspirators distributed it.

On several occasions a confidential informant, or an undercover officer, purchased methamphetamine from defendant Victor Lombrana. Surveillance revealed that Lombrana regularly visited Mendez and that Lombrana called him 379 times from Aug. 8 to Oct. 26, 2009.

In January 2010, Rodney Mendez was the passenger in a vehicle stopped for a traffic violation by the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office. Defendant Juan Anthony Bautista was the driver. The deputy deployed his narcotics detection canine who alerted to the odor of narcotics in the vehicle. A search of the vehicle revealed about 29 pounds of marijuana hidden in the vehicle's roof liner.

On Jan. 31, 2011, law enforcement executed a search warrant at the residence of Henry Pena Mendez, who is Rodney Mendez's brother. A subsequent search of Henry Mendez's residence yielded 315.63 net grams of methamphetamine and 2.77 pounds of marijuana. The investigation revealed that Rodney Mendez had supplied his brother with the methamphetamine and marijuana found at his residence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey R. Haag of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Lubbock, Texas, was in charge of the prosecution.