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Press Release

Leader of Large Cedar Rapids Heroin and Fentanyl Ring Uncovered by Wiretap Pleads Guilty to Six Federal Crimes

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Iowa

A man who led a multi-year heroin and fentanyl distribution ring pled guilty today in federal court in Cedar Rapids.

Brian Jarell Dennis, age 32, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to distribute more than one kilogram of heroin, four counts of distributing controlled substances (heroin, fentanyl, and another synthetic form of fentanyl called acetyl fentanyl), and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

At the plea hearing, Dennis admitted that he conspired to distribute more than one kilogram of heroin between 2017 and June 2021.  He also admitted that, in early June 2021, he possessed a firearm after he had previously been convicted of a felony.  Dennis also admitted to personally distributing substances containing heroin, fentanyl, and acetyl fentanyl on four occasions in December 2020 and January 2021. 

Evidence presented at prior hearings showed that during the early part of 2021, the Drug Enforcement Administration in Cedar Rapids initiated a wiretap investigation into Dennis’s drug distribution ring.  That evidence showed that during the months of the wiretap, Dennis employed intermediaries whom he supplied with purported heroin (which almost always also contained fentanyl or another synthetic opioid) to distribute to customers.  Several of those customers regularly distributed that purported heroin to other individuals.

Seven other individuals, Cody Scott Deklotz, Andrew James Lehman, Jerry Dwayne Banghart, Melinda Salvatora Werning, Thomas Nathaniel May, and Demico Demon Irvin, previously pled guilty to the heroin conspiracy and are awaiting sentencing.  Ryan Rick Schlitter was sentenced to 46 months’ imprisonment for his role in the conspiracy.  Three other individuals charged in the same indictment are still pending trial.

Sentencing before United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams will be set after a presentence report is prepared.  Dennis remains in custody of the United States Marshal pending sentencing.  Dennis faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment and a possible maximum sentence of life imprisonment, a $14,250,000 fine, and a lifetime of supervised release following any imprisonment.

The case was investigated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program of the United States Department of Justice through a cooperative effort of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Task Force consisting of the DEA; the Linn County Sheriff's Office; the Cedar Rapids Police Department; the Marion Police Department; and the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Dan Chatham.

Court file information at

The case file number is 21‑CR‑32‑CJW.

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Updated June 27, 2022

Drug Trafficking