Lansing drug bust suspect pleads guilty

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 18, 2003

Jose Emelio Mendoza Landa, 35, has agreed to a plea bargain.

The man, called "Nika," allowed his rural Austin mobile home to be a distribution center for methamphetamine, according to investigators.

Landa appeared before District Judge Donald E. Rysavy Thursday afternoon and entered a plea of guilty to one count of conspiracy to traffic drugs.

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Rysavy took the plea under advisement and ordered a pre-sentencing investigation.

Mower County Attorney Patrick W. Flanagan said the arrest of Landa interrupted drug trafficking in the area, but didn't stop it.

"It's continuing all over," Flanagan said. "It's a problem in rural America and everywhere."

Landa appeared with his court-appointed attorney Peggy Rockow-Esens and interpreter Linda Lares Monday afternoon in the Third Judicial District courtroom.

Landa had a closely-cropped head of hair and was shackled and dressed in bright, orange jail coveralls.

Landa allowed a mobile home parked in the village of Lansing and deeded to his wife to be used as a distribution center for the drugs, according to court testimony.

Still at large is an accomplice, Pedro Calvo, 51, believed to be the ring-leader of the distribution networking working from the Lansing mobile home.

A third suspect arrested at the scene, Ernesto Veraza, 50, was released from custody after all charges against him were dismissed at the request of the prosecutor.

In return for the guilty plea, all other charges against the defendant will be dismissed and Flanagan agreed not to seek prosecution on federal charges. Also, the defendant will not be prosecuted in connection with the false identification materials found at his mobile home.

While the anticipated sentence is slightly more than seven years in prison, Rysavy said the sentencing guidelines call for a maximum 40 years in prison and $1 million fine.

Landa made no statement to the court and otherwise answered all questions from his defense attorney and the judge through the assistance of the interpreter.

State and local authorities swooped down on the Lansing mobile home Jan. 8 ending a lengthy investigation with a successful raid. More than $100,000 street-value methamphetamine was seized as well as a large quantity of cash and two handguns.

At the time of the raid, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agents said a "rock" or chunk of methamphetamine discovered in the mobile home was the largest ever seen by the agents.

Veraza was found inside the mobile home showering. Landa and Calvo were not present, but Landa was apprehended a month later in south Texas and returned to Mower County.

Thursday's hearing lasted about 20 minutes and ended with Rysavy saying he would schedule a sentencing hearing when the pre-sentencing investigation is completed.

Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at