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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, December 7, 2018

Two Lassen County Residents Indicted And Three Others Arrested On Federal Charges

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A federal grand jury in Sacramento returned two indictments yesterday against two Lassen County residents, and three others were arrested on drug and firearms charges, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.

Joseph Preston Vanmear, 33, of Susanville, was charged by indictment with distribution of methamphetamine, possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was arrested during a traffic stop, and officers found a .22 caliber revolver under his seat, which matched the .22 caliber ammunition that officers found in the pocket of the jacket that Vanmear was wearing. Vanmear has a prior felony conviction and is prohibited from possessing firearms. If convicted of the methamphetamine offenses, Vanmear faces a mandatory minimum statutory penalty of 10 years and a maximum penalty of up to life in prison, and a $10,000,000 fine. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison on the firearms charge. 

Erika Louise Schmid, 44, of Ravendale, was charged by indictment with being a felon in possession of a firearm. According to court documents, officers executed a search warrant on Schmid’s home in October 2018. Officers found multiple firearms as well as body armor in and around the home. Schmid has a prior felony conviction and is prohibited from possessing firearms. If convicted, Schmid faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  

In three unrelated cases, three other Lassen County residents were arrested this week and appeared in federal court yesterday on criminal complaints. 

Darrel Kratzberg, 42, is charged with five counts of distributing methamphetamine and three counts of distributing heroin. According to court documents, federal and local law enforcement agencies identified Kratzberg as a long-time source of supply for both methamphetamine and heroin in and around Susanville. If convicted of the current charges, Kratzberg faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000 for each of the eight counts with which he is charged.

Kenneth James Miles, 27, is charged with two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm.  Court documents indicate that Miles was caught on surveillance recordings selling firearms to a law enforcement informant. Miles has a prior felony conviction and is prohibited from possessing firearms. If convicted of the current charges, Miles faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and a fine of up to $250,000, for each count.

Michael Brandon Spillers, 30, is also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.  Court documents describe two purchases of handguns by a law enforcement informant from Spillers and others. Spillers has a prior felony conviction and is prohibited from possessing firearms. If convicted, he faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and a fine of up to $250,000.

Any sentence for each of these defendants would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

These cases are products of coordinated investigations by the Susanville Police Department, the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office, the California Department of Corrections, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney James R. Conolly is prosecuting the cases.

These cases were brought as a part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. PSN was reinvigorated in 2017 as part of the Department of Justice’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally based strategies to reduce violent crime.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Press Release Number: 
2:18-cr-246/247-TLN; 2:18-mj-242/243/244-AC
Updated December 7, 2018