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Motel was a haven for drug peddling; owner and manager among those who plead guilty

New York, July 23 (IANS) Two Indian-origin men have admitted to drug and firearms charges arising from a drug trafficking venture run out of a motel in a southwestern US city.

Kamal Bhula, 44, and Pragneshkumar “Pete” Patel, 36, Patel, pled guilty to one count each of maintaining drug-involved premises in New Mexico’s Albuquerque city, a release by the Attorney’s Office in New Mexico said.

Along with Bhula and Patel, their accomplice Jonathan Craft also pled guilty to conspiracy and being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm or ammunition.

Bhula and Craft, who were indicted by a federal grand jury in 2019, will remain in custody pending sentencing, which has not been scheduled.

According to court records, Patel owned the Best Choice Inn at 7640 Central Avenue SE and was the on-site manager from September 2017 to March 2018, when Bhula leased the property from Patel and took over as the on-site manager.  

Craft lived and worked at Best Choice Inn, claiming to be in charge when Bhula was away.

Craft sold drugs from his room, permitted others to do the same, and permitted individuals to use drugs on the premises, and he also unlawfully possessed a firearm.

Bhula and Patel allowed drug trafficking at the motel and personally observed and profited from those who used controlled substances on the premises.

At sentencing, Bhula, Craft and Patel each face up to 20 years in prison.

On June 18, 2019, more than 50 law enforcement officers raided the Best Choice Inn after numerous reports of recent overdose deaths, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Bhula and Craft were among five people who were arrested and charged with conspiracy, money laundering, sex trafficking, racketeering, and various drug charges.

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