5th defendant admits role in drug-trafficking ring

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) - A Mexican national in Illinois has become the fifth man to plead guilty to federal charges relating to what prosecutors say was an international cocaine-trafficking plot.

Thirty-6-year-old Juan Miguel Mendez-Velasquez entered the plea Thursday in East St. Louis to drug possession and conspiracy charges. When sentenced in August, he faces up to 40 years in prison and subsequent deportation.

Mendez-Velasquez was among 10 people indicted in August 2012 for belonging to what prosecutors say was a large drug-trafficking operation that imported cocaine from Mexico to Salt Lake City. The drugs were then sent to the St. Louis area.

Four other defendants already have pleaded guilty and await sentencing. Trials are pending for three co-defendants, and two others are fugitives.

Mendez-Velasquez agreed to forfeit $115,000 to the federal government.

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