Skip to main content
Press Release

California Man Sentenced to Over a Decade in Federal Prison for His Role in Meth Distribution Around Dubuque

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Iowa
Threatened Co-Conspirators by Showing Videos of Cartel Beheadings

A man who admitted to being a money collector for a large‑scale ice methamphetamine distribution operation was sentenced February 7, 2019, to thirteen years in federal prison.

Jose Juan Ceja, age 25, from Bell Gardens, California, received the prison term after a June 28, 2018 guilty plea to one count of conspiring to distribute methamphetamine.

Evidence at the sentencing hearing showed that Ceja worked primarily as a money collector for a Mexican drug cartel that was responsible for distributing over three kilograms of ice methamphetamine in the Dubuque, Iowa, area in 2017.  In October 2017, Ceja appeared at one of his customers’ homes looking to retrieve something from a prior shipment of methamphetamine.  When the customer did not tell him the location of the methamphetamine, Ceja showed the customer videos of cartel members cutting off peoples’ hands and heads, and made threats against another member of the conspiracy.

Ceja was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand.  Ceja was sentenced to 156 months’ imprisonment.  He must also serve a 5-year term of supervised release after the prison term.  There is no parole in the federal system.

Ceja is being held in the United States Marshal’s custody until he can be transported to a federal prison.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Dubuque Drug Task Force, and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Dan Chatham and Special Assistant United States Attorney Drew Inman.

Court file information at

The case file number is 18-CR-1002-4-LTS-MAR.

Follow us on Twitter @USAO_NDIA.

Updated February 8, 2019

Drug Trafficking