33 Pounds of Meth Seized In Ottumwa & Newton

English: Crystal methamphetamine

English: Crystal methamphetamine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


More on the drug bust front.  This week authorities arrested four men in conjunction with a year long drug investigation.  The arrests occurred after search warrants were executed in Ottumwa and Newton, Iowa.  The four men, Michael McManus Jr., 35, of Ottumwa; Terry Lee Young, 58, of Ottumwa; Brian Lee Carmer, 35, of Newton; and Juan Hernandez-Huerta, 25, of Ottumwa are all facing conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine charges.  It is unclear whether the charges are state or federal but it seems likely given the amount of methamphetamine seized that this case will end up in federal court.


Below is a picture of the methamphetamine that was seized.  Meth is mostly commonly found in either powder or crystal form.  Meth made locally is generally anhydrous meth because of the way its made using anhydrous ammonia.  This type of meth is made in clandestine labs.  These labs are volatile and exceptionally dangerous.  For a list of clandestine labs found around the country visit the Justice Department’s clandestine lab website.  Anhydrous meth is generally not as desirable as the more pure meth imported from Mexico and other foreign nations.  Meth can be mixed with foreign materials such as horse vitamins to increase its volume and dilute its purity.  This is commonly referred to as “cut”.  This allows a dealer to take a pound of pure meth and create two pounds.  More volume = more sales = more money.  Meth can be smoked, snorted, injected or taken orally.


Photo Credit Des Moines Register

Photo Credit Des Moines Register


The methamphetamine in this picture is packaged.  Each individual package is referred to as a brick.  It appears dirty because it was probably being concealed in some fashion.  The meth itself is probably very safe in whatever packaging material it is in.


As always the Stowers Law Firm reminds you that all persons are INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY beyond a reasonable doubt.  These arrests came after a year long investigation in which law enforcement performed a number of drug purchases.  These purchases are known as “controlled buys” because they are accomplished using individuals working with law enforcement and either drugs or money which is specifically identifiable when and if it is recovered.  During a controlled buy law enforcement also utilizes human and electronic surveillance.  It is likely that each of these gentlemen, if charged in federal court, will face, at least, a mandatory minimum 10 year sentence.  Given the quantity however, it is likely their federal sentencing guideline range will be much higher than ten years.  As always they will need an experienced and aggressive lawyer to assist them in their defense.






Drug Raid in Monroe, Iowa

Another day, another drug raid in central Iowa.  This one occurred in the town of Monroe, Iowa in rural Jasper County.  According to KCCI,  6 people were arrested on varying charges from possession with the intent to deliver marijuana to misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.  The six charged ranged in age from 27-18.

English: County courthouse for Jasper County, ...

English: County courthouse for Jasper County, Iowa. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This raid, like many others in central Iowa, was carried out by members of the mid-Iowa narcotics enforcement task force, commonly known as the MINE task force.  The MINE task force is a federally funded organization made of a variety of federal, state and local law enforcement officials.  The task force focuses on drug interdiction operations in Des Moines and surrounding communities.

Altoona Drug Bust Nets 200 Pot Plants!

Recently, police in Altoona, Iowa executed a search warrant at the home of Jacob Alexander Willis.  According to police, Willis was under some sort of investigation, presumably narcotics related.  Upon entering Willis’s house police discovered over 200 marijuana plants. Law enforcement said the marijuana plants covered most of the house.  Willis apparently constructed an intricate system for watering and heating the plants.

In addition to the pot plants, police found harvested and packaged marijuana in the home.  Jacob Willis has been charged with possession with the intent to deliver marijuana, manufacture of marijuana and a tax stamp violation.  All of the charges are Class D felonies punishable by up to five years in prison.  However, in certain factual situations, the possession with the intent to deliver charge and the manufacture charge are considered one violation of Iowa Code Section 124.401 and would merge at sentencing.  Thus, it is very possible that Willis is only looking at a maximum of ten years instead of fifteen.


Fig3 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Altoona police said this is one of the biggest indoor grow operations they’ve ever seen.  That got us thinking.  Is 200 plants really big; or is it just really big for little Altoona, Iowa?  So we decided to do a quick google search for “indoor grow operations busted” and here is what we found:

  1. Just a few days ago law enforcement busted a father and son team from Goodman, Wisconsin who had a grow operation with almost 300 marijuana plants.
  2. In suburban New York City a mother of two was arrested and charged with cultivating an estimated 3,000 marijuana plants!  Yes you read that right, 3,000!  The plants are valued at around $3,000,000.00.  Agents said this was a very sophisticated operation.
  3. At the end of May, detectives in Golden Gate Estates, Florida uncovered two indoor grow operations in one week.  One operation contained about 95 plants and the other 81 marijuana plants.  The combined street value of the operations was about $528,000.00!
  4. Another article out of Florida discusses recent and past raids in Lake County, Florida.  In 2012, 32,306 pot plants from indoor grow operations were destroyed in Florida.
  5. Earlier this month, state and federal authorities raided a house in Moreno Valley, California and discovered 417 marijuana plants worth an estimated $1,500,000.00.  (Note the difference in value from the bust in New York.  The California operation had only 14% of the total plants in the New York grow operation but was worth 50% of the value of the New York grow operation).
  6. Finally, last month in Oak Hills, San Bernardino County, California, authorities busted a house and discovered over 1,700 marijuana plants!  The house was over 3,200 square feet and had an advanced lighting and fan filtering system.

So what does this tell us about the recent bust in Altoona?  Well it surely wasn’t small, but around the country there are far larger and more sophisticated marijuana grow operations.  Of course, regardless of the size of the grow operation; if you find yourself in Jacob Willis’a position or any of the individuals in the aforementioned articles, it’s a big deal!  You will need an experienced criminal defense team to advocate for you.  Often these cases start in state court but eventually migrate to federal court.  The attorneys at the Stowers Law Firm are experienced in narcotics defense in both state and federal court.  If you need a lawyer for a drug related case, do not hesitate to contact us today.

Iowa Law: Sentencing Enhancements

As part of our last post on felonies, we discussed some examples of sentences within each felony class.  For this post, we wanted to discuss “sentencing enhancements” – in other words, factors that can increase the duration of a sentence in Iowa.
Habitual Offender
“An habitual offender is any person convicted of a class “C” or a class “D” felony, who has twice before been convicted of any felony in a court of this or any other state, or of the United States.”  Iowa Code Section 902.8.  Habitual offender statutes do not charge a separate offense; they only enhance the punishment of the current offense.  SeeState v. Brady, 442 N.W.2d 57, 58 (Iowa 1989).  A habitual offender is not eligible for parole until he or she has served a minimum of three years.   However, a person will get statutory good time off the three year mandatory minimum.

 Second or Subsequent Offenses (Drug Crimes Only)
If a person is convicted of a second or subsequent drug offense—meaning that prior to the current drug offense, the person had been convicted of a crime relating to “narcotic drugs or cocaine, marijuana, depressant, stimulant, or hallucinogenic drugs”—that person “may be punished by imprisonment for a period not to exceed three times the term otherwise authorized, or fined not more than three times the amount otherwise authorized, or punished by both such imprisonment and fine.”  Iowa Code Section 124.411.

 Possession of a Firearm or Weapon
For some offenses, if the person is in immediate possession or control of a firearm while committing the crime, the sentence will be two times the term otherwise imposed by law.  Similarly, immediate possession or control of an offensive weapon will increase the sentence by three times the term otherwise imposed.  Iowa Code Section 124.401(1)(e) and (1)(f).

 By a School
If a person manufactures or distributes certain substances within one thousand feet from a school or other certain real property in Iowa, he or she may be sentenced up to an additional term of confinement of five years.  Similarly, if a person possessescertain substances on a school or other certain real property in Iowa, he or she may be sentenced to one hundred hours of community service.  Iowa Code Sections 124.401Aand 124.401B.

 Presence of a Minor
If a person manufactures methamphetamine in the presence of a minor, he or she shall be sentenced up to an additional term of confinement of five years. Iowa Code Section 124.401C.
Although this list is not exhaustive, it includes some of the most common factors that can enhance a sentence.