A Hennepin County judge doled out an unprecedented sentence on Tuesday for a drug crime in Minnesota, sending a methamphetamine kingpin to prison for 30 years.
Pedro "Peli" Ayala-Leyva was found guilty in October of first-degree drug-trafficking conspiracy, stemming from his leadership of a drug network that smuggled meth from California to Twin Cities suburbs. State sentencing guidelines recommended an approximately seven-year sentence, but prosecutors argued for more time behind bars.
"It's good to give the ringleaders and kingpins the significant prison time they deserve," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement. According to the statement, the 30-year sentence was a state record for a drug crime.
In imposing the sentence, Judge Regina Chu noted that the drug ring was expansive, put people at risk and involved smuggling a controlled substance halfway across the country.
Authorities took down the drug ring last winter, charging 20 people after an eight-month investigation that involved wiretaps and surveillance.
It reached a turning point in February, when officers pulled over a red Subaru and discovered a hidden compartment containing 10 pounds of meth.
The county attorney's office said the meth was smuggled from California to Ayala-Leyva's stash house in Brooklyn Park and another location in Cottage Grove. It was then dispersed to St. Paul, St. Cloud and Eau Claire, Wis.
Altogether, 16.1 pounds of methamphetamine -- worth more than $500,000 -- was entered as evidence at Ayala-Leyva's trial, along with two guns.
A criminal complaint released earlier this year described one of the handoffs, during which Ayala-Leyva exchanged meth with another dealer near the deli section of Festival Foods grocery store in Brooklyn Park.
Officers discovered drug notes, two Mexican passports and three cellphones in Ayala-Leyva's bedroom when they searched the Brooklyn Park house in February.
Officials said Ayala-Leyva was associated with the La Familia Michoacana Mexican drug cartel, which has been tied to similar meth busts near other U.S. cities such as Los Angeles and Atlanta.
Ten other major players in the drug ring have already been convicted. Another eight alleged lower-level participants will go on trial in early 2013.
Freeman could not be reached for comment on Tuesday evening.
Eric Roper • 612-673-1732 Twitter: @StribRoper