HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Soldier Admits Drug Smuggling
Pubdate: Fri, 16 Sep 2005
Source: El Paso Times (TX)
Copyright: 2005 El Paso Times
Contact:  http://www.elpasotimes.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/829
Author: Diana Washington Valdez, El Paso Times
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/coke.htm (Cocaine)

SOLDIER ADMITS DRUG SMUGGLING

Army Staff Sgt. Kelvin Irizarry-Melendez pleaded guilty Thursday to
drug charges and was sentenced by a military judge to six years of
confinement, reduction to private, forfeiture of pay and a
dishonorable discharge.

Irizarry-Melendez, 26, an exemplary soldier who rose rapidly in the
enlisted ranks, was accused of conspiring with others to smuggle
cocaine from Colombia and of transporting money in connection with the
scheme.

After entering his plea, the tearful Irizarry-Melendez told the court,
"I have done a terrible thing. I have embarrassed my country, the Army
and my family." He also said he became involved because he needed
money to pay for his young daughter's expensive medical treatments
that the insurance company did not cover.

But the military prosecutor, who recommended a sentence of 16 years of
confinement, said the soldier was a noncommissioned officer who knew
better. According to testimony, Irizarry-Melendez had a government
top-secret clearance, was a substance-abuse coordinator in his unit
and belonged to the 204th Military Intelligence Battalion, which
performed drug-interdiction duties in Colombia.

Irizarry-Melendez was among the soldiers assigned to the 204th at Fort
Bliss who traveled to Colombia as part of his work for the unit. The
unit helped process intelligence about drug activities from
intercepted communications in other countries.

His wife, Kayla Rosas, a cousin who is a nun on temporary leave and an
aunt who helped raise him testified that he was a loving husband and
devoted father.

Two other soldiers, Staff Sgts. Daniel Rosas and Victor J. Portales,
are awaiting military judicial proceedings in the case. Rosas is to go
on trial later this month.

On Aug. 12, Spc. Francisco Rosa, pleaded guilty to drug charges and
was sentenced to five years of confinement, reduction to private,
forfeiture of pay and a bad conduct discharge.

All the soldiers belonged to the same unit.
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