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Press Release

Wilkes-Barre Man Charged With Drug Trafficking And Firearms Offenses

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 Ernesto Richards, age 36, formerly of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, was charged yesterday by a federal grand jury with narcotics trafficking, firearms, and false statement offenses.

According to United States Attorney Gerard M. Karam, the indictment alleges that Richards conspired to distribute cocaine and crack cocaine in Luzerne County between February and September 2022.  During that time, it is alleged that Richards also conspired to import cocaine from foreign countries, and possessed firearms, including a stolen firearm, in relation to his drug trafficking activities.  In addition to being charged with a narcotics conspiracy, Richards also was charged with three counts of distributing and possessing with intent to distribute cocaine and crack cocaine.  Richards further was charged with possessing firearms in furtherance of his drug trafficking activities, and with possessing firearms and ammunition despite being prohibited as a convicted felon. Richards was also charged with lying to federal agents about his drug trafficking activities.

The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and the Pennsylvania State Police.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip J. Caraballo is prosecuting the case.

This case is 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 gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.

The penalties under federal law for the most serious narcotics charges are a minimum of five years and maximum 40-year term of imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine.  The most serious firearms charge carries a mandatory five-year term of imprisonment and maximum term of life, to run consecutive to any other term of imprisonment imposed, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine.  The false statement charges carry up to a five-year term of imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine.  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.

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

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Updated December 14, 2022

Project Safe Neighborhoods
Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses