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Crookston member of meth ring gets six years in prison

A Crookston man arrested last year after narcotics agents found $10,000 worth of methamphetamine hidden in his home was sentenced to six years in federal prison Tuesday for being part of a meth trafficking ring.

Jose Angel Fuentes, 33, pleaded guilty in Minnesota's U.S. District Court to one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. His prison sentence is four years less than the mandatory minimum sentence in his case.

Fuentes was originally charged with one count of first-degree drug sale and one count of first-degree drug possession in Polk County District Court after agents raided his Crookston home last August, but the charges were dismissed after he was named—along with seven others—in a federal indictment as a member of a drug conspiracy to move large amounts of meth.

Two other members of the drug ring have pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute meth, including Lonnie Alan "Gordo" "Fat Boy" Giles, who handled more than 500 grams of meth, according to the federal indictment. Giles was ordered to spend 20 years in federal prison.

Charges were pressed against Fuentes after the Pine-to-Prairie Regional Drug Task Force obtained a search warrant to search his Crookston home, where agents found 75 grams of methamphetamine hidden behind a wall in his garage, court records state.

During police questioning, officers say he admitted to hiding the meth for another person so as to pay off part of a debt he owed that person.

In a court document filed prior to sentencing, Fuentes' lawyer Patrick Flanagan asked for leniency, arguing Fuentes was a "minor" player and pointing to his struggle with drug addiction and the role his addiction played in his choices.

"Mr. Fuentes' addiction got the best of him, leading him back into poor decision making and into contact with one of the parties on this case," Flanagan wrote.

Flanagan also cited national discourse on mandatory minimum sentences imposed in drug cases, pointing to how former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder has encouraged prosecutors to move away from mandatory minimums.

"The discussion as to how to best combat the criminal drug trade by imposing a criminal penalty upon the offender while also acknowledging the addiction the offender may have and that played a part in the poor decision making, is an ongoing discussion in the criminal justice system," Flanagan wrote.

The judge chose to give Fuentes a sentence less than the mandatory minimum for conspiring to distribute at least 50 grams of meth, which is 10 years in prison.

He will receive credit for the year of jail time he served prior to his sentencing.