Henry Alvendia, a former lieutenant with the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency, wasn't the decorated hero who brought down an alleged multimillion-dollar illegal drug business.
Nevertheless, when he was sentenced Thursday in the District Court of Guam, a federal prosecutor described him as the person key to busting one of the largest meth-smuggling rings on Guam.
Federal public defender John Gorman described Alvendia as a star witness who busted alleged drug smuggling operators trafficking at least $6.36 million in methamphetamine, and that does not include potential proceeds from an apparent marijuana-growing operation on Guam.
It takes a corrupt person to know one. And in this case, though he caused shame to his family and tarnished the name of the agency he once served, Alvendia's decision to turn into a federal informant – after he got caught taking bribes from tobacco-smuggling conspirators – made him the central figure that helped bring the meth case to closure.
The case in which Alvendia became the star witness wasn't an easy one. Two Guam juries couldn't reach a unanimous decision, and there were allegations of jury tampering.
In the end, the third trial against Raymond Martinez and Juanita Moser was moved to California. Ultimately, the two decided to cut a plea deal to charges that were lesser than running a multimillion-dollar drug operation. They now face possibly four years behind bars in federal prison.
As for Alvendia, he will have to pay the government the equivalent of $29,000 in bribes he received when he was wearing a Customs badge while dealing with alleged smuggling co-conspirators at the same time. He was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison – a generous departure from a nearly six-year prison term he faced had he not cooperated to the satisfaction of the federal government.
In his 40 years of practice as an attorney, federal prosecutor Frederick Black said he had not seen any defendant cooperate more than Alvendia.
It may be impossible to completely eliminate the methamphetamine market on Guam, Black said, but it may be mitigated through the cooperation of individuals like Alvendia.
Guam's meth crisis continues to ruin many good people's lives and the lives of their families. We need more informants to shift sides, away from the bad guys.
These insiders can choose to do something positive by turning over information that can help keep our community from further harm.