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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Man pleads guilty in methamphetamine trafficking case

A reputed drug trafficker linked to a major Eastern Washington methamphetamine ring pleaded guilty to federal charges on Thursday.

Rafael Villa-Rico could face up to life in prison when sentenced in October, but the standard sentencing range is 14 to 18 years, authorities said. He was arrested on Jan. 2 and charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute over 50 grams of methamphetamine following an earlier Tri-Cities raid that yielded about 4 pounds of the drug.

Officers also arrested Julio Cesar Villa-Valdovinos, Steven R. Root and Shaun Mercer on the same suspicions. The three alleged co-conspirators still are awaiting trial.

In Thursday’s plea, Villa-Rico acknowledged to the judge that he and other individuals had agreed to distribute 50 or more grams of meth from the Tri-Cities to Spokane.

In May 2013, FBI officers discovered approximately 4 pounds of methamphetamine in the Pasco apartment of Camacho Valencia, records show. Valencia reportedly told agents that Villa-Rico was the supplier.

Lab tests determined the substance was 100 percent pure methamphetamine.

On the day of his arrest, surveillance officers observed a vehicle containing both Villa-Rico and Villa-Valdovinos meeting with Mercer in a Wal-Mart in Airway Heights. Officers witnessed Villa-Valdovinos enter Mercer’s vehicle with a white grocery bag.

Officers arrested Mercer as he drove away from the scene, and then arrested Villa-Valdovinos and Villa-Rico, finding $8,500 cash in Villa-Valdovinos’ jeans.