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Sisters charged with distributing methamphetamine and money laundering

LAS VEGAS - Federal charges have been filed against two sisters for allegedly conspiring to distribute more than 100 pounds of methamphetamine in the Las Vegas area and laundering more than $160,000 of drug proceeds through their bank accounts and safety deposit boxes.

Melba Lozoya-Mendoza, 35, and Llasmin Lozoya-Mendoza, 25, of Las Vegas, were indicted Wednesday on one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, two counts of possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute, one count of distribution of methamphetamine, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. They were arrested on April 20 following the filing of a criminal complaint, and are currently in federal custody awaiting trial. If convicted, they face at least 10 years in prison.

In 2008, members of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) in Las Vegas, including agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations, began an investigation targeting the illegal distribution of methamphetamine. According to court records, on April 16 a federal undercover agent posing as a drug runner purchased approximately one pound of methamphetamine from Melba Lozoya-Mendoza outside the Las Vegas hair salon where she worked.

Four days later, task force officers pulled Melba Lozoya-Mendoza over for a traffic violation and recovered approximately two pounds of methamphetamine from the car she was driving. Subsequently, federal agents executed a search warrant at the apartment where Melba and her sister Llasmin Lozoya-Mendoza resided. During that search, agents recovered approximately 20 pounds of methamphetamine from the master bedroom Melba shared with her 14-year-old son. Agents also located information related to six bank accounts and two safety deposit boxes at Wells Fargo Bank, where it was determined Llasmin Lozoya-Mendoza was employed. Federal agents executed search warrants for those accounts and safety deposit boxes, and recovered $167,332.

The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned July 23 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lawrence R. Leavitt.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kishan Nair, and investigated by ICE Homeland Security Investigations and IRS Criminal Investigation, and members of the Las Vegas OCDETF. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation's drug supply.

The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.