Twelve Years in Federal Prison for California Man Who Tried to Take Five Pounds of Ice Methamphetamine on a Plane to Iowa
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Iowa
A man who was arrested in Los Angeles while trying to transport five pounds of methamphetamine to Iowa was sentenced today to twelve years in federal prison.
Kiyonte Levell Sowell, age 22, from Los Angeles, California, received the prison term after a September 14, 2022 guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance.
Evidence at prior hearings and court records reflect that in late 2021, the Cedar Rapids Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) conducted a wiretap investigation into a drug organization being primarily run by David Belton (a/k/a “Blood”). In February 2022, intercepted communications indicated that a shipment of 60 pounds of ice methamphetamine was going to be coming to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, from California. Investigators tracked a courier driving a rental truck from Los Angeles to Nebraska, where the truck was stopped. During a search of the cargo area of the truck, officers found a plastic tote containing 60 pounds of ice methamphetamine.
Following the seizure of the 60 pounds of ice methamphetamine, Belton continued to purchase additional methamphetamine from his source in California. On February 27, 2022, Belton was intercepted speaking with Sowell, who is a relative of Belton’s. Belton told Sowell that he was booking Sowell a flight, instructed Sowell to “pack you a big ass suitcase, you already know you ain’t going to stay for that many days” and then said, “You already know what the rest is so we gonna, I’m gonna book you out a ticket in the morning.” The next day, Sowell went to Los Angeles International Airport, taking a large roller bag with him through airport security as carry‑on luggage. Airport security conducted an X‑ray of the roller bag and observed multiple bags of an unknown substance underneath the clothes inside the bag. During a secondary search of the bag, security found five vacuum‑sealed bags containing ice methamphetamine. Sowell admitted that the bag was his but said his brother had packed it. When asked if he was aware of the contents of the bag he shrugged and said, “It looks like cocaine or meth, I don’t know.” He then said he was going to Iowa, “but all I know is that I’m missing my flight and I’m going to jail.” Airport security eventually searched the bag, found that it contained approximately five pounds of ice methamphetamine, and arrested Sowell. Later testing determined the substance in Sowell’s bag was approximately 2,208 grams of 99% pure methamphetamine.
The following ten co‑defendants charged in the same indictment had previously pled guilty or been found guilty in federal court and are pending sentencing:
David Poitier Belton
Derek Michael Mims
Phillip Lanell Rogers
Robert Lee Michael Bates
Anton Tarrice Whitney, Jr.
Christopher Eric Curley
Calub Joseph Storlie
Timothy Michael Webber
“Methamphetamine is a highly dangerous drug that continues to threaten the safety of our communities,” said United States Attorney Timothy T. Duax. “We remain committed to working with the DEA and all of our law enforcement partners to protect the public from dangerous drug dealers and hold accountable those who bring methamphetamine into our communities.”
Sowell was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams. Sowell was sentenced to 144 months’ imprisonment. He must also serve a five‑year term of supervised release after the prison term. There is no parole in the federal system.
Sowell 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 DEA Task Force in Cedar Rapids and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The DEA Task Force in Cedar Rapids consists 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. Also assisting in the investigation were the Transportation Security Administration and Los Angeles International Airport Police, and DEA LAX Group 3 in Los Angeles. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Dan Chatham.
Court file information at https://ecf.iand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl.
The case file number is 22‑CR‑39‑CJW‑MAR.
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Updated March 10, 2023