PITTSBURGH - A resident of Apollo, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of conspiring to distribute more than 50 kilograms of marijuana, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.
Stephen Michael Lerch, 27, pleaded guilty to one count before United States District Judge William S. Stickman, IV.
In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that from May 2018 until October 2, 2018, Lerch received numerous parcels of marijuana and vaping cartridges containing THC from a drug source based in Denver, Colorado. Lerch’s source also delivered bulk amounts of marijuana to locations identified by Lerch in Western Pennsylvania. The conspiracy began to unravel when United States Postal Inspectors searched a parcel Lerch had mailed to his source. The parcel contained $27,500 in United States currency. Afterwards, Postal Inspectors searched the source’s apartment and found large amounts of cash and drug evidence. The Pittsburgh Field Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration was notified of this discovery and initiated an investigation of Lerch. On October 2, 2018, agents and task force officers of the DEA executed a search warrant at Lerch’s residence. The DEA recovered several pounds of marijuana from the residence along with two firearms; a vacuum sealer; a money counter; and $25,161.00 in cash. During the search, the investigators also learned that Lerch maintained accounts at S & T Bank and TD Ameritrade. These contents of these accounts were later seized pursuant to seizure warrants. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Lerch also agreed to the forfeiture of a Subaru Crosstrek and $102,290.79 on the basis that they were obtained from drug trafficking.
Judge scheduled sentencing for March 25, 2020. The law provides for a total sentence of 30 years in prison, a fine of $$2,000,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Pending sentencing, the court released Lerch on bond.
Assistant United States Attorney Michael Leo Ivory is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the West Metro Drug Task Force-Sheriff’s Office, Jefferson County, Colorado conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Lerch.