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4 members of alleged Gainesville drug ‘cartel’ plead guilty
8 others charged in what authorities call the 'Lenox Park Cartel'

GAINESVILLE -- Four of 12 co-defendants in a group suspected by Hall County authorities of trafficking some 8,800 pounds of methamphetamine have pleaded guilty in federal court.

Members of the “Lenox Park Cartel,” as it’s informally known by law enforcement, were arrested in September 2015, and authorities seized roughly $1 million in meth, cocaine and marijuana.

Four of them — Christel Ivester, of Toccoa, and Alejandro Avila, William Suarez and Carlos Alfredo Cantero-Cruz, all of Gainesville — have entered guilty pleas, according to court documents.

Ivester entered a guilty plea Dec. 21 to conspiracy to possess methamphetamine with the intent to distribute and possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime. She received an 11-year prison sentence.

“Ms. Ivester truly regrets her involvement in the conspiracy, has fully accepted responsibility for her conduct and looks forward to making a better life for herself and her family,” Ivester’s attorney Regina Cannon said Wednesday.

Suarez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and he was sentenced to 78 months in prison to be served concurrently with a state sentence he is currently serving. Suarez’s attorney Michael Trost did not return a call for comment.

Avila entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to possess methamphetamine with the intent to distribute and possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime.

Cantero-Cruz pleaded guilty to “knowingly and intentionally” distributing meth, according to court documents.

Sentencing has not been set for Avila or Cantero-Cruz, and attorneys Adam Hames and Michael Saul did not return a request for comment.

Attorney Steven Berne filed a motion for dismissal on Carrera’s charges claiming “outrageous government conduct” pertaining to a confidential informant in the case.

The motion filed on March 1 claims the confidential informant moved in with Carrera and “told Ms. Carrera that he wanted to make money by dealing drugs.”

The motion also claims Carrera was beaten and verbally assaulted.

“A hearing was scheduled on her motion to dismiss on June 8, but she did not appear at the hearing, and a bench warrant was issued for her arrest,” according to a report filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court. “She remains a fugitive.”

Berne did not return a request for comment Wednesday.

According to an order filed Tuesday, the case was certified ready for trial for co-defendants Ruben Ruiz, Diego Armando Cantero, Marco Antonio Cantero, Edwin Barrera, Jose Ramon Cardenas and Raul Mendoza Garcia.