AUG 28 (SEATTLE) – A drug trafficker who came to the attention of law enforcement after his roommate was shot and killed in November 2012, was sentenced on August 27, 2013, in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 15 years in prison and five years of supervised release.
Juan Hidalgo-Mendoza, 33, of Lakewood, Washington was convicted following a jury trial in May 2013 of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense and being a felon in possession of a firearm/ammunition. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton referred to Hidalgo-Mendoza’s apartment as “ground zero” for local trafficking activity and “a magnet for crime and violence” that drew the attention of armed intruders and led to the death of his roommate.
According to records filed in the case, emergency crews responded to the Greenwood Apartments on San Francisco Ave. SW, in Lakewood, just before 10:00 p.m. on November 12, 2012. They found Jaime Diaz-Solis with a fatal gunshot wound on the sidewalk outside the ground floor apartment he shared with Hidalgo-Mendoza. According to witnesses, they heard a gunshot and later Hidalgo-Mendoza dragged Dias-Solis from the apartment yelling for neighbors to call an ambulance. Hidalgo-Mendoza said he was in his bedroom when the victim was shot by an intruder. On the night of the shooting a search of the apartment revealed two bricks of heroin weighing over three kilos, wrapped in duct tape, as well as an AK-47 style assault weapon and ammunition. Investigators also found a revolver in Hidalgo-Mendoza’s bedroom closet. Hidden under the seat of Hidalgo-Mendoza’s truck, investigators found $37,800 in cash. Hidalgo-Mendoza was arrested in November for the drug conspiracy as well as being a felon in possession of a firearm. He has a prior conviction in California for distributing heroin and is prohibited from possessing firearms.
Two months after Hidalgo-Mendoza’s arrest, and after the apartment had been rented to a new tenant, law enforcement learned there were additional drugs hidden in the unit. In the walls they found eight bricks of heroin wrapped in duct tape, and two bricks of methamphetamine wrapped in green cellophane. The hidden heroin totaled more than 13 kilos and the methamphetamine was nearly two kilos. The wrapping of the heroin was identical to the two bricks seized in November.
This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved. The case was investigated by Drug Enforcement Administration, the Lakewood Police Department, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF). The Auburn Police Department assisted with the case.