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Washingtonian pleads guilty to large-scale marijuana importation conspiracy

SEATTLE - A Seattle-area resident who was extradited from Spain just last month to face drug smuggling charges here pleaded guilty today to conspiracy charges of importing more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, following a long-term investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

David R. Mendoza, 44, was identified as the leader of a conspiracy to smuggle multiple 100 kilogram loads of potent "B.C. Bud" marijuana into the United States. Much of the marijuana was moved by commercial trucks and by helicopter.

As part of his plea agreement, Mendoza admits he was responsible for a 400 kilo load of "B.C. Bud" intercepted at the border crossing at Blaine, Wash., in April 2003. The drugs were hidden in a load of lumber. In addition, Mendoza admits that in he imported more than 1,000 kilos of "B.C. Bud" via helicopter into Washington State.

"ICE places a priority on dismantling drug smuggling and distribution networks in order to keep illegal drugs off our streets and out of our communities," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in Seattle. "We remain vigilant in our efforts to prevent drug traffickers from profiting from this illegal activity."

The plea agreement also states that Mendoza must be sentenced to 14 years in prison or either side can withdraw from the agreement. He also has agreed to forfeit four properties that he admits were purchased with proceeds from the drug conspiracy. Three of the properties are located in Washington and the fourth is a movie theater in Bend, Ore.

Mendoza has prior drug convictions including one in 1990 in Nevada for possession of cocaine and 1993 convictions in Washington for conspiracy to import hashish and for conspiracy to distribute cocaine and hashish.