Mennonite Sentenced in Cartel Drug Smuggling Case

1 Dec




In what prosecutors called a drug smuggling conspiracy involving Mennonite and a Mexican drug cartel, a man was sentenced on Monday to 15 months in prison for aiding the movement of tons of marijuana to the U.S.

Mennonite Abraham Friesen-Remple was expected to be released later in the day after a judge sentenced him to time served as part of a plea deal he made in October.

Prosecutors said he played a minor role as a driver, helping the Juarez cartel smuggle drugs in gas tanks of cars and inside farm equipment.

Friesen-Remple was one of seven people indicted, all but one of whom are members of a Mexican Mennonite community in Chihuahua. Prosecutors also say the Mennonites also grew marijuana for the cartel.

The investigation involved wire taps in which 32,200 calls were recorded in Spanish and a German dialect used by Mennonites

Authorities said the operation moved to North Carolina after the arrest of a person who ran a Colorado Springs, Colorado, auto body shop involved in the case.

Court records show Friesen-Remple delivered a shipment of marijuana ? hidden in a farm bulldozer ? to a home in Shelby, North Carolina. DEA agents tapped his phone and learned he was getting directions from someone in Mexico.

The next month, a fellow member of the drug ring, who became a cooperating witness, told agents Friesen-Remple delivered the 1,575 pounds of pot that agents found during a search of his home, according to court records.

Friesen-Remple was arrested on Aug. 20, 2013, in the Santa Testa Point of Entry in New Mexico. He pleaded guilty to using a telephone to facilitate the distribution of marijuana.

During sentencing, U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer noted his lack of criminal history and limited role in drug distribution.

The Mennonite community in Chihuahua dates to the 1920s, when thousands of Mennonites moved from Canada to northern Mexico to preserve a way of life rooted in farming and objection to military service. They continue to farm and ranch in isolated communities.


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