The Tri-Cities Herald reports Jose Mendoza-Ruelas, 38, of Richland, Wash., plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of actual (pure) methamphetamine, 400 grams or more of fentanyl and 5 kilograms or more of cocaine. The Herald reports Mendoza-Ruelas is one of eight defendants in the case.
Mendoza-Ruelas used a Kennewick, Wash., landscaping company to hide his illegal activities.
United States District Judge Mary K. Dimke sentenced Mendoza-Ruelas, who is from Mexico, to 150 months in federal prison. He also will serve 5 years of federal supervision after he is released from federal custody.
According to documents and court proceedings, Mendoza-Ruelas was part of a trafficking organization that used a legitimate landscaping business to cover up the organization’s drug trafficking activities.
The Herald recounts the investigation began in 2019 when the Drug Enforcement Administration observed a man who traveled to the Tri-Cities from Seattle to accept a shopping bag from inside an Affordable Landscaping truck. The Herald said the DEA moved forward with the case in 2021 when a person reported learning of illegal drug activity linked to Affordable Landscaping.
According to the news report, law enforcement learned the drugs originated in Tuscon, Ariz., and were distributed in the Tri-Cities and Eastern Washington.
The DEA recovered large amounts of methamphetamine, fentanyl and cash through the course of the investigation.
Mendoza-Ruelas told investigators drug trafficking organization would give him 50,000 to 60,000 fentanyl-laced pills and large quantities of methamphetamine. Mendoza Ruelas was negotiating a 30-pound methamphetamine delivery when he was taken into custody.
The DEA, in partnership with local law enforcement, executed numerous search warrants at the landscaping compound. There, law enforcement recovered more than $160,000 in U.S. currency inside a compartment in the wall. Law enforcement also recovered several automatic rifles armed with loaded barrel drums hanging on the wall. The report said the trafficking organization utilized the compound to intake and process large drug shipments for distribution.