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Leader of Drug Ring Sentenced to More Than 8 Years in Prison for Trafficking Cocaine

FEB 11 (CHARLOTTE, N.C.) –Today, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Conrad, Jr. ordered Mateo Meraz, 42, of Rockford, Illinois and leader of a drug ring responsible for trafficking cocaine to the Charlotte area to serve 97 months in prison and three years of supervised release, announced Jill Westmoreland Rose, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Meraz pleaded guilty in November 2015 to one count of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.

Mateo Meraz’s conspirators, Sarah Christine Lapp, 38, of Jonesville, Wisconsin, and his son, Hector Meraz, 23, also of Rockford, have each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and are currently awaiting sentencing.

U.S. Attorney Rose is joined in making today’s announcement by Daniel R. Salter, Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which oversees the Charlotte District Office, Steven M. Watkins, Director of the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles License and Theft Bureau (NC DMV L&T), and Chief Kerr Putney of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department.

According to filed court documents and today’s sentencing hearing, Mateo Meraz was the leader of a Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO) responsible for trafficking cocaine from Chicago, Illinois to the Charlotte area. Court records show that in October 2015, Mateo Meraz, Hector Meraz and Sarah Lapp travelled to Charlotte to deliver approximately nine kilograms of cocaine with a street value of $476,145. According to court records, the cocaine had been packaged in 18 bundles and was prepared and ready for sale. To avoid detection, the conspirators transported the cocaine hidden in a secret compartment under the rear seat of the vehicle. Law enforcement arrested the three defendants shortly after the drug delivery had been made.

In announcing the sentence, Judge Conrad noted that “The defendant is an illegal alien that continues to return to the United States and traffic drugs. A 97-month prison sentence will adequately protect the community.”

Mateo Meraz has been in custody since October 2014 and will be transferred to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility. All federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole. Mateo Meraz is an undocumented alien and will be deported to Mexico upon completion of his sentence.

The case was investigated by DEA, NC DMV L&T and CMPD. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sanjeev Bhasker of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Charlotte is in charge of the prosecution.

The DEA encourages parents, along with their children, to educate themselves about the dangers of legal and illegal drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.justthinktwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov.

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