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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Mississippi

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Illegal Alien Sentenced on Drug and Firearm Charges

Gulfport, Miss. – Leonel Chavez Vargas, 29, an illegal alien from Mexico living in Neeville, Texas, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden to 70 months in federal prison followed by four years of supervised release for possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance and unlawful possession of a firearm by an illegal alien, announced U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Stephen G. Azzam. Vargas was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.


On June 5, 2017, a Harrison County Sheriff’s Deputy stopped a vehicle driven by Vargas for a traffic violation. After the stop, Vargas consented to a search of his vehicle. The deputy noticed a panel inside the vehicle had been tampered with, and upon further inspection, he located 4,212 grams of cocaine. Vargas admitted to law enforcement that he was supposed to be paid $5,000 for transporting the cocaine.


On November 21, 2017, Vargas pled guilty to possessing with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a detectable amount of cocaine hydrochloride in Harrison County, Mississippi, and being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm in the Southern District of Texas.


The firearm charge stemmed from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi agreeing to prosecute that charge on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas involving Vargas. Years ago, ATF agents in Houston, Texas, had begun an investigation into narcotics being sold from Vargas’ apartment. On August 30, 2011, agents went to the apartment and met with Vargas. He consented to a search of the apartment, and agents located drugs, firearms, and money throughout. Specifically, agents located a Taurus .40 caliber pistol under a mattress in Vargas’ bedroom. Vargas admitted that he was from Mexico and was unlawfully in the United States.


These cases was investigated by DEA, ATF, and Harrison County Sheriff’s Department, and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathlyn R. Van Buskirk.

Updated February 28, 2018