A drug racketeer will spend at least the next 10 years behind bars, following his guilty plea in U.S. District Court Tuesday.

Maximum possible penalty for Lucio Brito on each of two major counts is 40 years in prison. And a firearms charge could add another five years.He entered the plea literally on the verge of his trial. A panel of jurors was being selected when he decided to plead guilty. Brito's co-defendants, Jerardo Rico and Federico Mendez, are to be tried starting Wednesday.

Brito lives in Santa Ana, Calif., said a prosecutor. Mendez is from Orange County, California. Rico lives in the Salt Lake area.

In July, Brito was named in two of four indictments issued by a federal grand jury in Salt Lake City. In exchange for his guilty plea in one case, charges against him in the other will be dropped.

Brito said he was "culpable" of all three charges in the indictment: possessing more than 100 grams of a mixture containing heroin with the intention of distributing it; possessing more than 500 grams of a mixture containing cocaine, same intention; and possessing two firearms in connection with drug crimes. All three violations happened July 1.

Through an interpreter, Brito said he did not have a weapon when arrested. `I gave it to Mr. Rico, and he took it to his car." He asked that it be taken into consideration when he is sentenced at 9 a.m. on Nov. 30.

Responding to questions from the judge about the case, Brito said, through his translator, that a man named Nicaragua "wanted a lot of drugs" and placed an order with him. Brito had a man come from Mexico with the drugs, he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Wayne Dance gave this summary of the events: a government informant met Brito in Salt Lake City last October, and Brito sold cocaine and heroin to him. Later, Brito sold more drugs to the informant.

In the week before July 1, the informant spoke by telephone with Brito, who was in California, and said he was in the market for a large amount of drugs. Brito tried to get him to go to California to pick it up, but the informant insisted he would have to take it to him in Salt Lake City. Brito agreed to smuggle heroin and cocaine to Utah.

The three men were arrested July 1 at a Salt Lake apartment.