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The third of three men arrested as part of a sting operation against drug-dealing in Nogales was sentenced to three years in prison.

Fabian Mercado, 38, was sentenced on Nov. 2 at Santa Cruz County Superior Court after he pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful possession of a narcotic drug for sale.

Judge Thomas Fink gave him credit for 192 days served in custody prior to sentencing.

According to Mercado’s pre-sentence report, police received information in January 2020 that hard drugs were being sold in the community, and that the drugs were connected to a criminal organization based in Nogales, Sonora.

Following an investigation, federal agents and local investigators executed a search warrant in late April on the residences of three alleged co-conspirators in Nogales. One was served at the home of Mercado’s mother.

Inside the home, they found Mercado’s mother and a male who reportedly said he was there to buy heroin. The officers also found drugs including marijuana and fentanyl.

Mercado was arrested and read his rights, but agreed to speak to a detective. He admitted to being addicted to heroin, but said people came to his mother’s home to smoke it, not buy it.

When the detective told him that police had observed transactions that had taken place at the house, he again insisted that he wasn’t selling it – he just helped people get it. The detective countered that other people had admitted to police that they bought drugs from him.

The other suspects arrested in connection with the sting included Ivan Ariel Alvarez, 38, who was sentenced to five years in prison, and Jesus Octavio Cervantes, 49, who got a three-year term. Both were sentenced by Judge Fink in September.

“This web of drug dealers in Santa Cruz County involved them buying drugs from people smuggling from Mexico, buying them on the street, and then coming back to our community and selling them to individuals, just a skip and a hop away from this courthouse,” county prosecutor Enrique Gonzales, Jr. told the judge during Cervantes’ sentencing hearing.

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