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Press Release

Leader of Organization that Distributed Over 6 Kilograms of Heroin and Fentanyl Sentenced to Over 33 Years in Federal Prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Iowa
Dennis Found to Have Shot One of His Former Confederates Over a Drug Dispute

A man who led a years‑long conspiracy to distribute heroin and fentanyl was sentenced on April 21, 2023, to over 33 years in federal prison.

Brian Jarrell Dennis, age 33, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, received the prison term after his June 27, 2022 guilty pleas to one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin, two counts of distribution of heroin and fentanyl, two counts of distribution and aiding and abetting the distribution of heroin and fentanyl, and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon.

Evidence and information presented at the sentencing hearing and prior hearings showed that Dennis orchestrated the transport of over six kilograms of purported heroin from Chicago for distribution in Cedar Rapids.  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.

Evidence at the sentencing hearing showed that, in November 2018, Dennis was in a dispute with his cousin, who was one of his former heroin distributors.  Dennis believed his cousin had stolen customers from him, so Dennis threatened that individual over the phone, telling him that he would “come at him with everything [he] had.”  The sentencing court found that, during the evening of November 29, 2018, Dennis shot his cousin twice in the chest with a .22 caliber pistol during a drive‑by shooting in Cedar Rapids.  The cousin survived the attack, but the sentencing judge observed that for Dennis, “money comes before family.”  The judge described Dennis as the “poster child” for a major drug dealer who uses violence to control his business.

Information presented at sentencing and other hearings also showed that when officers attempted to arrest Dennis on the federal arrest warrant in June 2021, he led them on a high‑speed car chase during which Dennis threw a loaded handgun out of his vehicle, drove through traffic signals, and eventually drove onto a golf course where he ran his vehicle into a stone bridge.  After Dennis exited his vehicle and attempted to flee on foot, he was arrested by officers.

“Heroin and fentanyl are lethal drugs, and have killed adults and children in our community,” said United States Attorney Timothy Duax.  “Dennis brought these deadly drugs here intending to sell them for profit, regardless of the consequences.  Dennis used violence to control his market and enhance his ability to make money from the vulnerable and addicted.  Prosecuting dangerous individuals like Dennis remains a top priority for our office.”

drug“A known drug trafficker with a proven history of violence has been removed from our community making the streets of Cedar Rapids that much safer for our families,” Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Omaha Division Special Agent in Charge Justin C. King said.  “Today’s sentencing, along with the sentencing of nine of Brian Dennis’ associates, should send a strong message about the penalty that comes from pushing potentially lethal substances like heroin and heroin laced with fentanyl into our neighborhoods.  Drug trafficking is not an innocent crime and arrests are often made of traffickers who own multiple weapons and have inflicted harm on others.  Brian Dennis is a dangerous criminal and now faces more than 33 years in federal prison for his violent acts.”

Nine other individuals, Cody Scott Deklotz, Andrew James Lehman, Ryan Rick Schlitter, Melinda Salvatora Werning, Jerry Dwayne Banghart, Thomas Nathaniel May, Demeco Demon Irvin, Taylor James Leyden, and David Michael Nelson, previously pled guilty to the heroin conspiracy and have been sentenced.  Ryan Rick Schlitter was sentenced to 46 months’ imprisonment.  Andrew James Lehman was sentenced to 10 months and 16 days’ imprisonment.  Cody Scott Deklotz was sentenced to 84 months’ imprisonment.  Melinda Salvatora Werning was sentenced to 12 months and one day of imprisonment.  Jerry Dwayne Banghart was sentenced to 46 months’ imprisonment.  Thomas Nathaniel May was sentenced to 31 months’ imprisonment.  Demeco Demon Irvin was sentenced to 46 months’ imprisonment.  Taylor James Leyden was sentenced to 24 months’ imprisonment.  David Michael Nelson was sentenced to 24 months’ imprisonment.  Ladonna Cynthia Givens, who also sold heroin and fentanyl for Dennis but who was charged in a separate indictment, was sentenced to 7 months and 14 days’ imprisonment.

Dennis was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams.  Dennis was sentenced to a total of 400 months’ imprisonment on the conspiracy count, 240 months’ concurrent imprisonment on the remaining drug counts, and 120 months’ concurrent imprisonment on the gun count.  He must also serve a total of a five-year term of supervised release after the prison term.  There is no parole in the federal system.

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

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 April 24, 2023

Drug Trafficking