Leader of major drug trafficking organization pleads guilty

Local News

A former resident of Mexico, pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of violating federal drug laws, Acting United States Attorney Soo C. Song announced today. 
Ignacio Montes Leon, 36, pleaded guilty to one count before United States District Judge David S. Cercone.  In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that from June 2013 through February 2015, Leon engaged in a conspiracy with eighteen co-defendants to distribute and possess with intent to distribute between 50 and 150 kilograms of cocaine, and more than 100 grams of 99% pure methamphetamine.  

According to information provided to the court, Montel Leon was the local leader of a drug trafficking organization involved in importing cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico into Texas, which was then transported to Erie, Pennsylvania and elsewhere in hidden compartments in vehicles.  Montes Leon was responsible for coordinating the drug shipments with higher-level conspirators in Texas, was directly selling pure methamphetamine to individuals in Erie, Pennsylvania on multiple occasions, and was responsible for distributing multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine at a time to his co-conspirators.  

In December 2013, law enforcement officers seized four kilograms of cocaine in Erie, Pennsylvania connected to Montes Leon.  According to information provided to the Court, on November 1, 2014, after Montes Leon traveled to Texas to coordinate another drug shipment, two of his drug couriers were transporting the cocaine when they were stopped by the Arkansas State Police while traveling east near milepost 253 on Interstate 40.   Montes Leon arranged for those couriers to travel to the Houston, Texas area to pick up a load of cocaine destined for delivery to Erie, Pennsylvania and elsewhere.  

The Court was further advised that a search warrant was executed on the vehicle and that individually wrapped packages of cocaine were located in a hidden compartment in the vehicle.  The packages were discovered to contain more than 5 kilograms of cocaine.  Montes Leon then fled into Mexico.  Law enforcement officers located Montes Leon in Mexico, and he was arrested and extradited back into the United States to face prosecution in Erie.      Judge Cercone scheduled sentencing for March 19, 2018 at 3:00 p.m. The law provides for a total maximum sentence of life in prison, a fine of $4,000,000, or both.  Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant. 
Assistant United States Attorney Marshall J. Piccinini is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government. The Homeland Security Investigations, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Pennsylvania State Police, U.S. Border Patrol, the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation; the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General Organized Crime Section, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, and the Arkansas State Police conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Leon. 

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