Stay gets 18 months for drug cartel involvement

A Princeton woman is serving 18 months in federal prison for her role with a Mexican drug cartel that distributed methamphetamine and cocaine throughout Minnesota.

Maria L. Stay, 31, was among 26 codefendants indicted in April 2009. Oscar Damian Limon, 33, of Faribault, was sentenced Jan. 6. He was the last of the 26 defendants to be sentenced.

At the direction of drug kingpin Roberto Guadalupe Aleman, the members of this conspiracy imported hundreds of kilograms of cocaine into the U.S. from Mexico, and then transported the cocaine from the Texas-Mexico border into  Minnesota for distribution and resale, according to the United States Department of Justice.

Dan Moren, Assistant Special Agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Minneapolis-St. Paul Field Office, said in a statement, “Minnesota may be well over a thousand miles from the Mexican border, while the limbs of the Gulf Cartel still reached into our state to deliver drug shipments through the illegal actions of these convicted defendants.

“Through joint law enforcement and prosecutorial efforts, federal and local agencies were able to investigate and methodically dissect the organization, holding the defendants accountable for infecting our communities with methamphetamine and cocaine,” Moren stated.

Stay was facing possible life in prison had she been convicted of all charges filed against her.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Stay was originally charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, three counts of aiding and abetting the distribution of cocaine and one count of distributing, admitting that she conspired to distribute between 500 grams and 150 kilograms of cocaine, as well as acquiring, packaging, preparing and transporting cocaine, distributing it to customers, and collecting cash.

In addition, several codefendants admitted making structured cash deposits of drug-trafficking proceeds. Intercepted telephone communications during the investigation revealed that the leaders of the Aleman Drug Trafficking Organization purchased cocaine directly from the Gulf Cartel, a Mexican-based drug-trafficking organization that traffics in cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin. The Gulf Cartel is a chief rival of the Sinaloa Cartel, another major Mexican-based drug-trafficking organization.

In Minnesota, authorities executed search warrants at residences in Bloomington, Brooklyn Park, Cold Spring, Saint Wendel Township and St. Cloud. Seized during the investigation, known as Operation Malverde, were four firearms, 12 vehicles, cocaine, cash and assorted drug paraphernalia. Additional search warrants were executed throughout the county of Hidalgo, Texas. Law enforcement officers also seized approximately $120,000 in drug-trafficking proceeds from the bank account of Maria Aleman.

The affidavit states that the organization was transporting approximately 10 to 30 kilograms of cocaine each month into the state of Minnesota for the duration of the conspiracy. In addition, federal law enforcement authorities traced the banking activity of several defendants, uncovering a complex web of structured cash deposits in Minnesota banks followed by withdrawals from Hidalgo area banks. These structured transactions totaled more than $3.7 million during the course of the three-year conspiracy.