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Roswell man pleads guilty to meth trafficking

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ALBUQUERQUE — Gerald Sentell, 45, of Roswell, pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in Las Cruces to methamphetamine trafficking charges.

Sentell is one of 41 individuals charged in September 2015 with drug trafficking offenses as a result of an eight­month, multiagency investigation by the FBI, the DEA, the Chaves County Metro Narcotics Task Force, the Roswell Police Department, the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office, and the New Mexico State Police.

The investigation, which was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) program, initially targeted a drug trafficking organization (DTO) allegedly led by Joseph Ray Mendiola, 35, of Roswell, that distributed meth in Chaves County. It later expanded to include drug traffickers who allegedly supplied meth to the Mendiola DTO and other drug traffickers operating in Chaves County. The OCDETF program combines the resources and unique expertise of federal agencies, along with their local counterparts, in a coordinated effort to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations.

Sentell, Mendiola and 14 co­defendants were charged in a 24­ count indictment filed Sept. 22, 2015. Count 1 of the indictment charged 15 of the 16 defendants with conspiracy to distribute meth between June 2015 and July 2015. Count 2 charged three defendants with conspiracy to distribute cocaine in July 2015. Counts 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 charged certain defendants with possession of meth with intent to distribute in July 2015. Counts 8 through 24 charged certain defendants with using communications devices (telephones)

to facilitate drug trafficking crimes. All crimes charged in the federal indictment occurred in Chaves County.

During the course of the investigation, law enforcement officers executed 14 federal search warrants for 10 residences in Roswell, one residence in Dexter, and three vehicles. During the execution of those search warrants, the officers seized approximately 5,600 grams of meth, $35,960 in cash, and multiple firearms, including two assault rifles.

During Wednesday’s proceedings, Sentell pleaded guilty to conspiracy, possession of meth with intent to distribute, and use of a communication device to facilitate a drug trafficking crime. At sentencing, Sentell faces a statutory minimum penalty of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison. He remains in federal custody pending a sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.

To date, six other defendants charged in the federal indictment have entered guilty pleas. The remaining defendants have entered not guilty pleas to the indictment.

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