Brothers Convicted for Role in Dad's Richland County Drug Organization
APR 06 -- Columbia, South Carolina ---- Acting United States Attorney Kevin F. McDonald announced that brothers Martin Mendez, age 25, of Smyrna, Georgia, and Elver Diaz-Vega, age 32, of Atlanta, were convicted by a federal jury in Columbia for conspiracy to distribute kilograms of cocaine and crack in South Carolina, and for weapons charges. United States District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie presided over the trial and will sentence the men later this summer. Diaz-Vega faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in federal prison, while Mendez faces a mandatory minimum of 20 years. Each could be sentenced to the maximum term of life imprisonment.
Mendez and Diaz-Vega are the sons of Juan Mendoza, who was sentenced last year to 30 years imprisonment for leading the drug trafficking organization that operated at various locations in Richland County, including residences on Claudia Drive, Old Percival Road, and the Hunt Club Road Trailer Park near Decker Boulevard. The brothers bought and sold more than 100 kilograms of cocaine for the organization, which investigators estimate had been in operation since 2002. In addition, Mendez authorized drug transactions made by the organization, while Diaz-Vega had his own cocaine distribution network.
Evidence at trial included Diaz-Vega’s 2008 arrest, which occurred after he attempted to purchase two kilograms of cocaine in Georgia from an undercover agent. At the time, deputies recovered a firearm and more than $40,000 cash from Diaz-Vega. Testimony was also presented that Mendez used a cell phone to approve drug deals for the organization while he was serving time at a half-way house for an earlier drug conviction. Thirty people have been convicted in the case, which resulted in the seizure of $600,000 in cash, substantial quantities of cocaine and marijuana, and more than 20 firearms.
The investigation was a joint effort by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Columbia Police Department, the Richland County Sheriff's Department, the Lexington County Sheriff's Department, the State Law Enforcement Division, the Dekalb County Sheriff’s Department, the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, all working together on the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) with the United States Attorney's Office.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys James Leventis and Jay N. Richardson.