Feds take grenade launcher from cocaine dealers working in San Diego

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SAN DIEGO — An Illinois man who admitted his role in an expanding cocaine distribution conspiracy that extended into San Diego and involved the seizure of grenades and assault weapons was sentenced in San Diego federal court Friday to more than 11 years in prison.

Juan A. Mexicano, 33, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to a charge of conspiracy to unlawfully distribute cocaine. U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel sentenced the defendant to 135 months in federal custody.

In his plea agreement, Mexicano admitted to maintaining a narcotics stash house in Illinois that he used to distribute cocaine from a Mexican-based trafficker, identified in court documents as “El 99.”

Mexicano also acknowledged that he made arrangements to import cocaine through the Southern District of California and that he possessed weapons seized from a storage facility in Illinois. The weapons included two hand grenades, a grenade launcher, five .50 caliber weapons, one .22 caliber handgun with a silencer, 26 other assault-style weapons, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and six ballistic vests.

Curiel noted “this catalogue of armaments was capable of mass destruction” and that the weapons “evidenced the danger to the community that this group of drug traffickers posed to the community in Illinois.”

Mexicano is the fourth defendant to be sentenced in the case. He further admitted that the stash house near Chicago was used for the temporary storage of cocaine and acknowledged  that up to approximately 150 kilograms (about 330 pounds) of cocaine was stored there.

In addition to Mexicano, other defendants who have entered guilty pleas in the case are Walter Ipina of Victorville; David Castaneda-Solis of Mexico; Zachary Vasquez of Anaheim and Jacob Castillo of Guatemala.

Through his plea agreement, Ipina admitted that, during 2016, he moved the cocaine provided by “El 99” through the Southern District of California by using his family owned trucking business’ tractor-trailer to move the cocaine from Southern California to Chicago.

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