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Man sentenced to 27 years in federal prison for central role in Peoria-area drug trafficking operation

A man living illegally in the United States has been sentenced to 27 years in prison for trafficking meth in central Illinois.

Prosecutors said 41-year-old Gabriel Antonio Montano-Rodriguez operated mainly out of Arizona. He trafficked more than 23 pounds of meth and six pounds of heroin from the southwest border to the Peoria area over 10 months, said federal judge James Shadid.

On one occasion, authorities said he personally brought 15 pounds of ice methamphetamine to the area to sell. From there, the drugs were sold via a network of drug dealers in the Peoria area.

Shadid said the hefty sentence, handed down last month, was necessary because prior efforts to deport Montano-Rodriguez weren't effective in stopping his criminal conduct. Montano-Rodriguez had been departed on at least four prior occasions, and also left the country voluntarily several times before illegally returning. He had previous convictions for federal marijuana conspiracy, illegal reentry, and transporting undocumented immigrants.

Montano-Rodriguez was serving a federal prison sentence in Texas prior to the Illinois case.

Authorities said three of the Peoria-area drug dealers who distributed for Montano-Rodriguez also were prosecuted federally.

The U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Agency and Pekin Police Department investigated the case, with assistance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Canton Police Department.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.