Brothers convicted for role in father's drug organization

Columbia, SC - COLUMBIA, SC (WMBF) - Two people have been convicted Tuesday by a federal jury in Columbia for conspiracy to distribute crack and cocaine, in addition to weapons charges in South Carolina.

U.S. District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie presided over the trial of Martin Mendez, 25, of Smyrna, GA, and Elver Diaz-Vega, 32, of Atlanta, and is expected to sentence the men in coming weeks.

Diaz-Vega faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in federal prison, while Mendez faces a mandatory prison sentence of 20 years. Each have the potential to be sentenced to the maximum term of life imprisonment for their respective charges.

U.S. Attorney Kevin McDonald says the two men are the sons of Juan Mendoza, who was sentenced in 2009 to 30 years of prison for leading a drug trafficking organization that operated in Richland County. The brothers, he says, bought and sold more than 100 kilograms of cocaine for the organization, which is estimated to be in existence since 2002.

Evidence presented at the 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.

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