The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois has reported that a 32-year-old man who was extradited from Mexico in early November has been charged by a federal grand jury with conspiracy to possess and distribute methamphetamine and cocaine. The Mexican national could be sentenced to life imprisonment and ordered to pay a $10 million fine if he is convicted on all counts. He is being held without bond and his trial is scheduled to begin in January 2019, according to media reports.
The extradition and charges are the result of an investigation into the distribution of drugs in the St. Louis metropolitan area and Southern Illinois that began in 2014. Officers from local law enforcement agencies working with Drug Enforcement Agency agents are said to have tracked the supply of drugs to Mexico. The conspiracy to distribute illegal narcotics involved at least 19 individuals, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The investigation was prompted by a surge in fentanyl and heroin overdose deaths as well as a rise in methamphetamine use in the region. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in its press release that the operation was an example of the new spirit of cooperation between Mexican and American law enforcement in the war on illegal drugs that claims thousands of lives on both sides of the border each year.
The evidence required to extradite an individual and secure a grand jury indictment may not be enough to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. An experienced criminal defense attorney may suggest that someone charged with serious drug offenses remain silent until they have spoken with a lawyer. This is because federal prosecutors may wish to avoid the risks of a public trial and settle narcotics cases discretely at the negotiating table, and this could be especially true when the proceedings are likely to attract a great deal of media attention.