MANKATO — An Austin man who had reached a plea deal in a major methamphetamine dealing case will instead face additional drug charges when he goes to trial because he refused to implicate his wife in the January drug sting.
Reynaldo Rivera Jr., 60, and Josefina Villa, 48, were arrested January 8 in a drug sting set up by an investigator with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. The investigator, who was working with law enforcement officers in Mankato and Austin, reported the couple delivered more than a half pound of methamphetamine. The amount of the drug recovered could have a street value of more than $20,000, depending on quality.
Rivera was set to accept a plea deal in May, but the deal was withdrawn by Assistant Blue Earth County Attorney Chris Rovney. As required, Rivera had to admit to the basic facts of the case that substantiated a crime. Rovney said he withdrew the deal because Rivera insisted that Villa rode with him to Mankato, but knew nothing about the drug dealing.
“We have evidence that shows otherwise,” Rovney said. “There were phone calls, etc.”
During a court hearing this week Rovney also said he is planning to file an amended criminal complaint that would have additional charges for other Mankato drug deals that took place before January. There were previous deals that took place in the Target parking lot at the River Hills Mall. Rovney said those deals also involved several ounces.
Even so, it wasn’t enough to entice federal agents and prosecutors to take over the case, Rovney said. “They only deal with pounds.”
After setting up those previous deals, investigators were watching Rivera and Villa closely Jan. 8 as they left their residence in Austin at 7:30 a.m. and drove toward Mankato. Law enforcement officers who were following the couple reported they dropped a third person in Blooming Prairie on their way.