Alleged Accomplice Of Willie Gandara Jr. Pleads Guilty

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POSTED: Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 6:30pm

UPDATED: Friday, August 17, 2012 - 7:55pm

As we've reported for several months, former El Paso County Commissioner Willie Gandara Jr. faces federal drug charges, including drug trafficking.

The case against Gandara may depend on what his alleged accomplice, Juan Canales, is willing to say in an open courtroom.

On Thursday, Gandara's alleged co-conspirator Canales pled guilty to drug charges against him. He's now out on bond and will be sentenced in two months.

Canales stood in front of a federal judge and pled guilty to conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with intent to distribute.

ICE and DEA agents arrested 37-year-old Gandara and 50-year-old Canales in February.

Court documents said both men used a Socorro home to sell pot last September and October. According to county records, the home belongs to former Socorro Mayor Willie Gandara Sr., the former commissioner's father.

Prosecutors said Gandara and Canales tried to smuggle 124 pounds of marijuana in a tractor trailor through the Sierra Blanca checkpoint in October. They said the truck was headed to Chicago.

Canales will be in federal court for sentencing in September. He faces up to 20 years in prison and $1 million fine.

Gandara is expected in court for arraignment July 13. He faces up to 40 years in federal prison and a $1.5 million fine.

Canales said, "No Comment" when asked about Thursday's guilty plea.

Newschannel 9 left a message with Ganara's attorney, Joe Spencer to learn what it means for his client but he did not return our phone call.

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