LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A suspected associate of a La Puente street gang pleaded guilty today to a federal charge stemming from a scheme to smuggle drugs into a county jail.
Patricia Marie Jimenez, 35, entered her plea to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Sentencing was scheduled for March 17 in Los Angeles federal court.
Jimenez, of La Puente, was accused three years ago of attempting to smuggle narcotics into the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic by hiding plastic, drug-laden drinking straws in her boots, as well as possessing counterfeit currency, possessing unauthorized access devices, aggravated identity theft and possession of stolen mail.
She was among 17 defendants named in a series of indictments targeting the gang, which authorities said is affiliated with the Mexican Mafia.
One of the indictments alleges that Ricky Lee Thornburg, a reputed gang member who was an inmate at the jail, planned to receive the smuggled meth and distribute the drugs to other inmates. He is awaiting trial in the case.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the investigation began when authorities learned that another La Puente gang member was involved in drug trafficking, with intercepted communications indicating he was willing to sell meth. One of the indictments alleges he sold a quarter-ounce of meth while armed with a 9mm handgun.
Jimenez was intercepted as she tried to enter the jail to visit the gang member at Pitchess in May 2018, prosecutors said.
As the probe expanded, authorities also allegedly uncovered an identity theft ring.
While most of the participants are charged in separate cases, stolen credit cards and personal identifying information from numerous common victims were found in the possession of multiple defendants, prosecutors allege.
Pitchess is an all-male county detention center named for Peter J. Pitchess, the 28th sheriff of Los Angeles County. He served from 1958 to 1981.