Public Safety

Buchanan County man accused of being large-scale meth distributor will remain in jail pending trial

David Vargas
David Vargas

CEDAR RAPIDS — A federal judge ruled Friday to keep a Buchanan County man, who authorities say is a large-scale methamphetamine dealer in Eastern Iowa, in jail pending trial.

U.S. Magistrate Mark Roberts found probable cause that David Vargas, 47, of Winthrop, committed distribution of a controlled substance — methamphetamine. He said the weight of the evidence is “fairly” strong after hearing a narcotics agent testify about controlled buys, where a confidential informant purchased half-ounces of methamphetamine from Vargas in three different incidents.

Roberts also said Vargas, who has previous convictions in Iowa and California, has a history of disobeying court orders, including being a fugitive and being charged under an alias. Vargas was also under probation when he was arrested in this offense.

Special Agent Joshua Mulnix with the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement testified three controlled buys, using a confidential informant were set up in February, March and April, where Vargas sold half-ounce quantities of meth to the informant. The quantities were about 13 grams valued at $350.

The buys were usually in a vehicle outside a restaurant or convenience store in Oelwein and Independence, Mulnix said. The informant wore an audio device during the transactions.

During the investigation, agents learned Vargas was distributing meth in Eastern Iowa cities — Winthrop, Independence, Urbana and Waterloo. Mulnix said Vargas’ supplier was in Burlington. They covertly installed a GPS tracker on his vehicle and the informant also told him that Vargas wanted the informant to come with him to Burlington to meet his supplier.

Mulnix said a search was conducted at a casino hotel, where Vargas was staying, after the controlled buys, and agents recovered 409 grams of methamphetamine, which is an amount for distribution, not personal use, and other items related to drug distribution. A pound of meth usually is valued at $8,700, he said. There are roughly 454 grams in a pound.


Vargas told authorities he had a serious drug habit but didn’t admit to selling the drug, Mulnix said. In a search of Vargas’ Winthrop home, agents also recovered 498 grams of meth and 191 grams of marijuana, Mulnix said.

Vargas hasn’t been arraigned and a trial date hasn’t been set. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

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