News and Press Releases

jury convicts kC man of illegal firearms

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 26, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that a Kansas City, Mo., man has been convicted by a federal jury for illegally possessing firearms in relation to drug-trafficking crimes.

Gilberto Lara-Ruiz, also known as “Hill,” 31, a citizen of Mexico who was residing in Kansas City, was found guilty of possessing firearms in furtherance of drug-trafficking crimes, including a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol and a .22-caliber revolver.

Lara-Ruiz was also found guilty of discharging a handgun in relation to a drug-trafficking crime. Evidence presented during the trial indicated that Lara-Ruiz fired shots into the car of a person from whom he wanted to settle a drug debt.

Lara-Ruiz is currently serving a federal prison sentence after pleading guilty in a separate but related case to distributing methamphetamine and to illegally entering the United States.

Following the presentation of evidence, the jury in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City deliberated for about two hours before returning the guilty verdict to U.S. District Judge Greg Kays, ending a trial that began Tuesday, May 24, 2011.

Nine co-defendants, all of whom are St. Joseph residents, have been sentenced after pleading guilty to their roles in a drug-trafficking conspiracy. Danny Ray Hughes, 37, was sentenced to 11 years and three months in federal prison without parole. Ernest Harold Sneddon, also known as “Mouse,” 42, was sentenced to 10 years and eight months in federal prison without parole. Charles Whitson Corbitt, 25, was sentenced to 10 years and three months in federal prison without parole. Steven Laverne Blacketer, 45, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison without parole. Dustin John Benny, 30, was sentenced to nine years and two months in federal prison without parole. Kala Yvette Rose, 47, was sentenced to eight years in federal prison without parole. Leatha Mae Gutierrez, 43, was sentenced to seven years and one month in federal prison without parole. Bruce Allen Bish, 25, was sentenced to seven years and eight months in federal prison without parole.

Co-defendants Nathan Michael McKee, also known as “Cheesy,” 30, Cody Shawn Gardner, 29, and Belinda Leigh Heastan, 36, all of St. Joseph, pleaded guilty to their roles in the drug-trafficking conspiracy and await sentencing.

Under federal statutes, Lara-Ruiz is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $500,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Rhoades. It was investigated by the Buchanan County Drug Strike Force, the Buchanan County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

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