BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A U.S. judge has sentenced a Mexican citizen to almost five years in federal prison after prosecutors say he brought 34 pounds (15.4 kilograms) of methamphetamine from Arizona to Montana.
U.S. District Judge Susan Watters sentenced 35-year-old Jorge Luis Mendez-Sanchez to 57 months during a court appearance in Billings. He pleaded guilty in January to possession of meth with intent to distribute the drug.
Montana law enforcement has struggled to contain a surge in violent crime over the past several years that officials say is being driven largely by methamphetamine trafficking and abuse.
Officials said earlier this month that a year-long crackdown has managed to slow but not reverse the increase in crime.
Thirty-four pounds of the drug is equivalent to more than 123,000 individual doses with an estimated street value of $1.5 million, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Prosecutors say Mendez-Sanchez and alleged accomplice Aldo Pardini drove the drugs from Arizona to sell to a customer in Billings last July. They were arrested by authorities who had been alerted to the scheme through a confidential informant, according to court documents.
A conspiracy charge against Mendez-Sanchez was dismissed under a plea deal. Upon completion of his sentence, he will be turned over to immigration officials and is likely to be deported, according to court documents and defense attorney Lance Lundvall.
Mendez-Sanchez faced a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $10 million fine. He requested a lesser sentence in part because of his minimal criminal history, which consisted of a single driving intoxicated charge from more than a decade ago, according to Lundvall.
Pardini and a third defendant, Jose Jesus Islava-Lopez, are awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to related charges.

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