A jury trial over the largest amount of methamphetamine ever seized in Arkansas -- about 260 pounds' worth -- ended Thursday in Little Rock with the conviction of a California man.
The jury convicted Javier Leon, 56, of Moreno Valley, Calif., of possessing with the intent to distribute methamphetamine. When sentenced by U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr., Leon faces at least 10 years in prison, which is the mandatory minimum sentence when the quantity of the drug tops 500 grams, or about 1.1 pounds. The maximum sentence is life, and a fine of up to $10 million is possible.
Law enforcement officers seized the methamphetamine from the back of Leon's tractor-trailer rig after he attracted police attention while traveling through Lonoke in 2015.
"This seizure had enough methamphetamine to supply every man, woman and child in Little Rock," Acting U.S. Attorney Pat Harris said Thursday. "Thanks to the efforts of several law enforcement agencies and agents, this significant amount of methamphetamine will never hit the streets, and never poison our communities."
Harris added, "This jury verdict makes clear that whatever level of involvement you have with this drug -- as a seller, user or courier -- there will be justice served and punishment delivered."
Testimony at the trial established that the 260 pounds of methamphetamine, broken into user quantities, could have supplied 300,000 individual users, with a potential street value of $7 million to $8 million, Harris said.
Leon owned the tractor-trailer and drove for a California furniture shipping company, American West, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney's office.
It said that on March 30, 2015, he pulled over in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 40 and parked illegally on an exit ramp. That attracted the attention of an Arkansas State Police corporal, Olen Craig, now retired, and resulted in a drug-detection dog being summoned. The dog indicated the presence of drugs, leading to a search of the trailer.
During the search, Cpl. Chase Melder located more than 22 pounds of powder methamphetamine, as well as more than 240 pounds of liquid methamphetamine in multiple five-gallon jugs, all nestled among a load of furniture destined for Alabama and the Atlanta area, according to the news release.
The Drug Enforcement Administration became involved in the case after the seizure and continued to investigate Leon, who the jury decided must forfeit the 18-wheeler to the government.
"Stopping drug traffickers traveling across Arkansas highways is a priority for state troopers, particularly the department's criminal interdiction unit," said Col. William Bryant, director of the state police. "This case represents a major victory in stopping illegal drugs from getting to a destination, and our troopers are committed to staying in the fight."
In addition to the state police and the DEA, the Little Rock Police Department and the Lonoke County sheriff's office participated in the investigation. The case was prosecuted by assistant U.S. attorneys Chris Givens and Michael Gordon.
Metro on 05/05/2017