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FARMINGTON — Three Mexican nationals have pleaded guilty to federal charges in the trafficking of methamphetamine in northwest New Mexico.

Miguel Rangel-Arce, Rogelio Santiago Quiroa-Valdez and Luis Rangel-Arce were arrested in March in connection to a two-year, multi-agency investigation into meth trafficking on the Navajo Nation and in San Juan County, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.

Sgt. Kevin Burns, operations supervisor of the Region II Narcotics Task Force, previously said the Mexican nationals were the ringleaders of a drug trafficking organization responsible for 60 to 70 percent of the meth distributed in San Juan County.

Burns said the men ran the operation from a Shiprock residence and had integrated into the Navajo community.

Five more men were arrested in connection to the operation. One man has pleaded guilty in the case and is awaiting sentencing, according to the release, and the other four defendants are awaiting trial.

Miguel Rangel-Arce, 36, and Quiroa-Valdez, 25, pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to meth trafficking offenses, the release states.

Miguel Rangel-Arce faces from 10 years to life in prison at sentencing after he admitted in the plea agreement that he conspired to sell at least 500 grams but less than 1.5 kilograms of meth to an undercover officer between Nov. 24 and March 17, according to the release.

Quiroa-Valdez faces five to 40 years in prison after he admitted in the plea agreement he distributed 85.5 grams of meth on Feb. 24 to an undercover officer, the release states.

Luis Rangel-Arce pleaded guilty on Aug. 16 to meth distribution and admitted in the plea agreement he twice distributed meth in January 2016 to an undercover officer. He also faces five to 40 years in prison, the release states.

The three men are in federal custody awaiting sentencing, according to the release.

Federal agents also seized more than 2 1/2 pounds of meth, 10 firearms, approximately $1,600 in cash and a vehicle in the operation.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644. 

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