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9 plead guilty in meth ring bust

POCATELLO, Idaho - Nine co-conspirators in a large-scale methamphetamine trafficking ring pleaded guilty Tuesday and Wednesday in federal court.

U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced Thursday that Samuel Nevarez-Ayon, 26, of Rexburg, pleaded guilty to continuing criminal enterprise for his leadership role in the conspiracy. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 8 before Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill at the federal courthouse in Pocatello.

Nevarez-Ayon faces a minimum term of 20 years up to life in prison, a maximum fine of $2 million, and a minimum term of five years of supervised release.

Six defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute in excess of 50 grams of methamphetamine – Fabiola Esmerelda Marin Castro, 25, of Rexburg; Juan Ortiz Jr., 28, and Antonio Javier Mendoza, 28, both of Shelley; Daniel Quiroz, 25, and Ricardo Garcia Lopez, 35, of Idaho Falls; and Rafael Ignacio Guerrero, 37, of North Las Vegas, Nev. They each face a minimum term of 10 years in prison, at least five years of supervised release, and a maximum fine of $10 million.

Castro, Ortiz, and Mendoza are scheduled to be sentenced on March 5; Quiroz on March 6; and Lopez and Guerrero on March 7.

Everado Tapia Torres Jr., 30, of Idaho Falls, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute 5 grams or more of methamphetamine. The charge is punishable by at least five years in prison, a maximum fine of $5 million, and a minimum term of four years of supervised release. Torres is scheduled to be sentenced March 7.

Abel Garcia, 24, of Idaho Falls, pleaded guilty to false statement to a bank. He faces up to 30 years in prison, a maximum fine of $1 million, and up to five years of supervised release. Garcia is scheduled to be sentenced on March 8.

According to the plea agreements, from June 2005 through January 2012, a group centered around Nevarez-Ayon entered into a conspiracy to possess and distribute in excess of 50 grams of actual methamphetamine in the Idaho Falls area.

Nevarez-Ayon admitted that he distributed methamphetamine to other individuals on at least three occasions during this same time period and directed activities of various co-defendants. In addition to distributing methamphetamine, several defendant laundered proceeds from the sale of the methamphetamine, and made false loan application to local banks to further the laundering of money. During the course of the conspiracy, the defendants obtained more than $500,000 from the distribution of methamphetamine.

Five co-defendants are scheduled to enter guilty pleas to related charges on Jan. 23 and 24 – Guadalupe Meraz, 41, of Madera, Calif.; Ana Rosa Valdez-Ceja, 26, of Shelley; and Nicolas Levi Olsen, 29, Alberto Abarca, 22, and Isidoro David Herrera, 31, both of Idaho Falls.

The charges are the result of a nine-month investigation by the Organized Crime DrugEnforcement Task Force, which includes the Idaho State Police, Bonneville County Sheriff's Office, Idaho Falls Police Department, Madison County Sheriff's Office, Rexburg Police Department, Bingham County Sheriff's Office, Fremont County Sheriff's Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Other federal agencies participating in the OCDETF program include the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Marshals Service.

The OCDETF program is a federal multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force that supplies supplemental federal funding to federal and state agencies involved in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of major drug trafficking organizations, the attorney's office said.

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