DENVER - In what prosecutors called a drug smuggling conspiracy involving Mennonites and a Mexican drug cartel, a man was sentenced on Monday to 15 months in prison for aiding the movement of tons of marijuana to the United States
Mennonite Abraham Friesen-Remple was expected to be released later in the day after a judge sentenced him to time served as part of a plea deal he made in October.
Prosecutors said he played a minor role as a driver, helping the Juarez cartel smuggle drugs in gas tanks of cars and inside farm equipment.
Friesen-Remple was one of seven people indicted, all but one of whom are members of a Mexican Mennonite community in Chihuahua. Prosecutors also say the Mennonites also grew marijuana for the cartel.
The investigation involved wire taps in which 32,200 calls were recorded in Spanish and a German dialect used by Mennonites
Authorities said the operation moved to North Carolina after the arrest of a person who ran a Colorado Springs, Colo., auto body shop involved in the case.
Court records show Friesen-Remple delivered a shipment of marijuana - hidden in a farm bulldozer - to a home in Shelby, N.C.
DEA agents tapped his phone and learned he was getting directions from someone in Mexico.
The next month, a fellow member of the drug ring, who became a cooperating witness, told agents Friesen-Remple delivered the 1,575 pounds of pot that agents found during a search of his home, according to court records.