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Press Release

Luzerne County Man Pleads Guilty To Heroin Trafficking Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Pennsylvania

SCRANTON—The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that a Luzerne County man pleaded guilty today, before Senior U.S. District Court Judge James M. Munley in Scranton, to participating in a heroin trafficking conspiracy that operated in Luzerne County during February through October 2014.

According to United States Attorney Peter Smith, the defendant, Desmond Mercer, age 28, admitted to conspiring with others from Luzerne County, New Jersey, and Alabama, to distribute heroin to customers in the Luzerne County area. Mercer acknowledged distributing more than 700 grams of heroin and playing a leadership role in the conspiracy.

Mercer was indicted by a federal grand jury in Scranton in October 2014, as a result of an investigation by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Kingston Police, Plymouth Police and the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, both the government and the defendant will recommend that the court impose a sentence of 14 years in prison. The defendant also agreed to the forfeiture to the United States of $15,887 in cash seized by agents and police during the investigation, and two vehicles. The plea agreement is subject to the approval of the Court.

Mercer is the fifth defendant connected to the conspiracy to plead guilty in the case.

Judge Munley ordered a presentence investigation to be completed, and scheduled sentencing for March 2, 2016. The Judge could sentence Mercer to up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $1 million.  Mercer was ordered to be detained in prison pending sentencing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Francis P. Sempa is prosecuting the case, along with Luzerne County Assistant District Attorney Jill Matthews who is a Special Assistant United States Attorney.

Indictments and Criminal Informations are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.

A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

The maximum penalty under federal law is 20 years in prison, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant's educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.


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Updated December 1, 2015

Drug Trafficking