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Third man pleads guilty in Plano drug bust

Little Marketa. 20 W. South Street Plano Dec. 14 2009. | Corey R. Minkanic~For Sun-Times Media.

Little Marketa. 20 W. South Street, Plano, Dec. 14, 2009. | Corey R. Minkanic~For the Sun-Times Media.

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Updated: March 24, 2012 11:26PM

A Plano man is facing at least 10 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to selling between 15 and 50 grams of cocaine through his grocery store.

Mario Melendez, 41, pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute, according to federal court records. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 25.

In 2009, Melendez was one of four men charged with drug conspiracy. They are accused of running a large-scale cocaine ring out of Little Marketa General Store, a convenience store selling fruits, meats, ice cream and other groceries out of a building at 20 W. South St.

“Operation Dos Hermanos” — Spanish for “two brothers” — targeted drug sales moving through Kendall County. Between August 2008 and February 2009, federal investigators were watching the store and listening to phone calls from Melendez and his brother, Abel Cadena-Martinez, 47, who were using the store to meet with other drug dealers, according to court records. The FBI claims the brothers bought wholesale amounts of cocaine from a supplier, Lazaro “Marbles” Medina, 37, of Villa Park.

Those three men and regular customer Jesus Corral, 34, of Plano were all charged when federal investigators recovered 10 kilograms of cocaine, four weapons and “substantial” amounts of cash during the investigation.

Medina was the first of the four to plead guilty, although he later tried to withdraw his plea. He is scheduled to be sentenced April 4. Corral also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to deliver. He faces at least five years in prison. Cadena-Martinez’s case is still pending.

In a statement that accompanied his guilty plea, Melendez admitted that beginning in 2001, he bought a quarter-kilogram of cocaine every month for six months from Medina. After six months, Melendez began buying a half-kilogram of cocaine every month. Then between 2002 or 2003 and 2006, Melendez was buying a kilogram of cocaine every six to eight weeks. Melendez made at least $35,000 during the course of the drug conspiracy, according to the plea agreement.

According to court documents, Melendez has no prior criminal history. He faces a maximum of life in prison. Nine other drug counts were dismissed when he agreed to plead guilty.

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