CEDAR RAPIDS — Two men who were part of a large-scale heroin distribution ring in Cedar Rapids were each sentenced Wednesday to federal prison.
Dewon E. Meeks, 30, pleaded guilty last year in U.S. District Court to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. He was sentenced to nearly six years in prison. In a plea agreement, Meeks admitted to being involved with the “Ferrari” group from June 2015 through April 2019 and to distributing 100 grams or more of heroin.
Cortez D. Nelson, 30, of Cedar Rapids, in a separate hearing was sentenced to nearly 13 years in prison. He also pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and admitted to being part of the Ferrari group until 2018.
Last year, Meeks sold heroin three times to a confidential informant, who arranged the buy through a phone number associated with the group. They had certain phone numbers that were known as the Ferrari group, and those numbers were passed around and used by Meeks, Nelson and about 12 others during the conspiracy in Cedar Rapids.
Investigators used wiretaps and found that members were selling heroin 20 times a day during a six-week period, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ashley Corkery said during Meeks’ sentencing. More than 300 grams of heroin was sold during that time.
During a search of Meeks’ home, authorities found 250 plastic bags with the corners cut out, which are known as “corner tears” and used to redistribute heroin in smaller quantities, Corkery said. Meeks made many of his heroin sales out of his home.
Corkery said Meeks was responsible for selling 100 to 400 grams of heroin.
Meeks, during the hearing, said, “I messed up. I did. I take full responsibility for what I did.”
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Meeks also said he used heroin for pain from two gunshot injuries and didn’t sell it to make money. He apologized to his family.
U.S. District Judge C.J. Williams said not much has deterred Meeks from continuing to be involved with drugs. He had two brothers, Dexter and Andrew Meeks, fatally shot in 2011 and 2017, and he has been shot twice himself over drugs.
Williams sentenced Meeks to 71 months in prison, which is at the top of the sentencing advisory range. Meeks also will have to serve four years of supervised release following his prison term.
During Nelson’s hearing, Corkery pointed out he was responsible for distributing 1,000 grams of heroin, and he also made trips to Chicago to obtain heroin to bring back and sell in Cedar Rapids. He was making $2,800 a day in sales according to his buyers, she said.
At two different times, authorities made controlled buys from Nelson near a mall and park — prohibited areas — and a person nearly died after overdosing on heroin he sold.
Nelson, during the hearing, apologized to the overdose victim and his family and asked for leniency.
Williams said his criminal history — which included probation and parole violations, drugs and firearms charges — was “serious and troubling.” He had nine convictions as an adult and two as a juvenile. He started distributing drugs at 16 and didn’t stop until 2018. At that time, he seemed to start making a change in his life, earning a CDL license to drive a semitrailer. He had a job in Chicago before being charged in this case.
Williams said he was going to give Nelson the “benefit of the doubt” and sentenced him to 151 months, which is the bottom of the advisory range. Nelson also was ordered to serve five years of supervised release.
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