Friday, October 26, 2012
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office wrapped up the prosecution of the major players in a large methamphetamine ring with a guilty verdict against Pedro Ayala-Leyva late Thursday afternoon.
Ayala-Leyva, known as Peli, was the last of 11 major defendants to be found guilty in the eight-month investigation by St. Paul police, the FBI and assisted by the Minneapolis Police Department and other agencies.
Ayala-Leyva, 37, occupied a high position in the drug operation, which moved the meth from California to Minnesota, and according to testimony, Ayala-Levy was associated with the La Familia Michoacana Mexican drug cartel. The jury returned the guilty verdict to a single count of conspiracy to commit controlled substance crime in the first degree after slightly more than an hour of deliberation.
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office will seek an upward departure, which required the jury to find that Ayala-Leyva engaged in a major controlled substance crime, that his conduct placed people at serious risk and that three or more people were actively involved. The jury agreed with those findings and prosecutors will now seek a 30-year prison term when he is sentenced Nov. 29.
“This quick verdict shows that a jury recognized the excellent investigation and the legal work of two great prosecutors that it took to break up a huge drug-smuggling ring,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said. “We used all the tools we had, including wiretaps, surveillance and cooperation between agencies to smash this enterprise.”
In the nearly three-week trial, Senior Hennepin County Attorney Hilary Caligiuri and Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Maximillia Utley introduced into evidence 16.1 pounds of methamphetamine seized, worth more than $500,000. Two handguns, including a semi-automatic FN 5.7 millimeter that is used by the Mexican military and drug cartels, were introduced as evidence. The jury also heard recordings of wiretaps involving Ayala-Leyva and testimony from 25 witnesses, including several of his co-conspirators who already pleaded guilty.
The case involved the smuggling of meth from California to Ayala-Leyva’s stash house in Brooklyn Park and another in Cottage Grove. The drugs were then distributed through their network which extended into St. Paul, St. Cloud and Eau Claire, WI. The case peaked on Feb. 18 when investigators asked the Minnesota State Patrol to stop Daniel Samorano as he was driving a red Subaru Outback from California. The stop was made in Lakeville and a search of the vehicle revealed a hidden compartment and 10 pounds of meth.
Ayala-Leyva testified in his own defense and said that he lived in Los Angeles and was a car dealer and that was what brought him to Minnesota several times a year. He said that when he was in Minnesota, he hung out with the wrong crowd and when they were arrested, they tried to blame him.
Others already convicted are:
Samorano, Douglas Galteco, Obet Moreno-Guerrero, Victor Hernandez Sanchez, Mario Alberto Castro, Jose Salgado, Jonathan Steven Schneider, Jerry Vang, Koua Yang, Felix Lopez Martinez and Kao Xiong
Seven other lower-level defendants are scheduled for trial in January and February. They are Vinai Xiong, Kong Vang, Evalyn Lia Bheaanu, Xue Her, Fong Meng Yang, Phong Yang and Paul David Vonrueden.