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Published November 09 2010

Appeals court upholds sentence in drug case

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a life sentence for a Washington man involved in an international drug conspiracy that brought methamphetamines to North Dakota.

In an appeal filed last year, Miguel Angel Chavez asked the appeals court to overturn his federal conviction on charges that included distributing illegal drugs, money laundering, identity theft and continuing criminal enterprise.

The drug conspiracy, known as “Operation Paint by Numbers,” resulted in hundreds of pounds of methamphetamines being funneled from Mexico to the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in North Dakota.

Chavez’s attorney Jeff Bredahl argued at the sentencing hearing in November 2009 that Chavez wasn’t a principal leader of the drug operation – a contingent factor in whether a mandatory life sentence would be applied.

In their decision, three appeals court judges affirmed the sentence and conviction from Fargo’s U.S. District Court, saying the court “did not clearly err in finding that Chavez was the enterprise’s principal administrator, organizer or leader.”