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Leader of meth trafficking ring pleads in conspiracy
10 others convicted or charged
CEDAR RAPIDS — A California man who was the leader of a methamphetamine trafficking operation, shipping “hundreds of pounds” of the drug from California to Iowa, was convicted Wednesday in federal court.
David Poitier Belton, 37, of Compton, Calif., pleaded to one count of conspiracy to distribute meth and one count of being a felon and drug user in possession of a firearm.
Belton, also known as “Blood,” admitted he and others, between 2017 and March of last year, transported 30- to 60-pound shipments of ice meth from Los Angeles to Cedar Rapids, according to the plea agreement.
Belton paid other individuals to transport the ice meth, typically in a vehicle that contained a specially made hidden compartment, according to the plea. Once the drugs arrived in Cedar Rapids, Belton or his associate would retrieve the meth and distribute it to other members of the trafficking ring to sell on the streets.
In October 2020, the vehicle with the hidden compartment was searched by law enforcement while it was on a car hauler traveling to Iowa. About 30 pounds of ice meth was found inside the hidden compartment.
In late 2021, the Cedar Rapids Drug Enforcement Administration conducted a wiretap investigation into Belton’s drug activities. Last February, intercepted communications indicated that a shipment of 60 pounds of ice meth would be coming to Iowa from California. Investigators tracked a courier driving a rental truck from Los Angeles to Nebraska, where the truck was stopped.
During a search of the cargo area of the truck, officers found a plastic tote containing 60 pounds of the drug, according to prosecutors.
Following the seizure of the 60 pounds, Belton continued to purchase additional meth from his source in California. On Feb. 27 of last year, Belton was intercepted speaking with Kiyonte Sowell, a relative of Belton’s in California and also convicted in this crime. Belton told Sowell that he was booking Sowell a flight. The next day, Sowell went to the Los Angeles International Airport, taking a large roller bag with him through airport security as his carry-on bag.
Airport security conducted an X-ray of the roller bag and detected multiple bags of an unknown substance underneath the clothes inside the bag, according to prosecutors. During a secondary search of the bag, security found five vacuum-sealed bags containing ice meth.
Sowell admitted the bag was his but said his brother had packed it. When asked if he was aware of the contents, he shrugged and said, “It looks like cocaine or meth, I don’t know.” He then said he was going to Iowa, “but all I know is that I’m missing my flight and I’m going to jail.”
On March 8 of last year, investigators searched Belton’s home in Cedar Rapids, according to prosecutors. During the search, investigators located a small amount of cocaine and 15 guns. Belton wasn’t allowed to have firearms because he had two previous convictions for burglary and possession with intent to distribute marijuana. Belton also is prohibited from possessing guns because he was an unlawful user of marijuana.
U.S. District Judge C.J. Williams will set sentencing after a presentence report is prepared. Belton faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and possibly up to life. He also faces a $10 million fine and lifetime supervised release following any prison term.
10 others charged:
-Robert Michael Bates, 30; Timothy Michael Webber, 45; and Phillip L. Rogers, 48, are pleading Thursday.
-Anton T. Whitney Jr., 32, is set to plead Friday.
-Christopher E. Curley, 30, and Calub J. Storlie, 35, have pleaded and await sentencing.
-Kiyonte L. Sowell, 21, pleaded last year and will be sentenced March 10.
-Jesus Vera, 35, pleaded last year and awaits sentencing.
-Derek M. Mims and Elmer Mims, 68, are set for trial Feb. 21.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Chatham and investigated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force program of the U.S. Department of Justice through a cooperative effort of the DEA Task Force in Cedar Rapids and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
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