Previously Convicted Hazleton Heroin Trafficker On Supervised Release Pleads Guilty
SCRANTON - The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced today that a Hazleton man pleaded guilty to a Criminal Information charging him with a heroin trafficking offense.
According to United States Attorney Peter Smith, Claudio Herrera, age 49, appeared before Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick yesterday in Scranton and admitted to possessing with intent to distribute approximately 60 grams (approximately 1,800 doses) of heroin in Hazleton on November 19, 2015.
The charges stem from a joint investigation by the Pennsylvania State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation which culminated in the execution of a search warrant at Herrera’s residence. During the search the State Police seized approximately 60 grams of heroin and other drug paraphernalia. Herrera was immediately arrested and has been detained ever since in prison. The case is being prosecuted by John C. Gurganus.
At the time of his arrest, Herrera was serving the federal supervised release portion of a previously imposed federal drug trafficking sentence. In July 2011, U.S. District Court Judge Edwin M. Kosik sentenced Herrera to a term of fifty-four (54) months of imprisonment based on a guilty plea to heroin and crack cocaine trafficking.
At the guilty plea hearing yesterday before Magistrate Judge Mehalchick, Herrera acknowledged that he (1) had been selling heroin in the Hazleton area since the summer of 2015; (2) sold heroin to a State Police cooperating witness leading to the execution of the search warrant; and (3) intended to distribute the heroin seized in his home by the State Police. Herrera further acknowledged that he faces a maximum possible sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment for the offense, to be followed by an additional term of imprisonment for his supervised release violation.
This case was brought as part of a district-wide initiative to combat the nationwide epidemic regarding the use and distribution of heroin. Led by the United States Attorney’s Office, the heroin initiative targets heroin traffickers operating in the Middle District of Pennsylvania and is part of a coordinated effort among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
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.
As mentioned above, the maximum penalty under federal law is 20 years of imprisonment, 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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