ANCHORAGE - A jury convicted a man of operating a drug ring that brought large amounts of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine from California to Alaska, prosecutors said Monday.
Juan Manuel Mendiola, 28, was convicted Friday of conspiracy and illegally possessing six firearms, including two machine guns. He was arrested on Sept. 19, 2008 after a three-year investigation. Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Anchorage say the ring had operated since 2005.
Thirty-eight witnesses were called to testify for the prosecution in the trial that began three weeks ago in federal court in Anchorage. Testimony revealed that Mendiola ordered the drugs from around California, including Van Nuys and Lancaster, and used private shippers to mail packages to various addresses in Anchorage.
On March 13, 2007, Drug Enforcement Agency agents seized a package after being notified by the shipper in California that it contained six kilograms of cocaine and a pound of methamphetamine. DEA agents could not do an undercover delivery because Mendiola had been tipped off that the package was intercepted.
Mendiola was eventually arrested but became a fugitive when he was released from jail.
He was re-arrested on Sept. 19, 2008, when he was found inside a home with a large bag of methamphetamine and 10 ounces of heroin. Two loaded semiautomatic pistols were in the kitchen and approximately $50,000 in cash was in the bedroom, according to prosecutors.
The drug ring had various rental houses where members lived and drugs were prepared to be sold, including cooking cocaine to turn it into crack.
Former Mendiola girlfriend Seirosa Sia Milo, 28, who was in charge of receiving and shipping packages of drugs and money, testified gallon-sized plastic bags with large amounts of cocaine and methamphetamine were in a home in east Anchorage she shared with Mendiola and some other drug ring members.
Milo testified that on occasion, she made $40,000 a day selling drugs.
Mendiola could be sentenced to life in prison and fined $4 million at sentencing in early September. He also must forfeit the firearms, a Cadillac and the $50,000 in cash.
The investigation led to the indictment of 12 people on drug charges last year. Many have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing, including Milo. Three have been sentenced with prison terms ranging from almost six years to more than 21 years.
Five co-defendants are awaiting sentencing in July and August. Two co-defendants are fugitives being sought in California.