RALEIGH, N.C. – The leader of an armed drug-trafficking organization responsible for moving kilogram quantities of methamphetamine and fentanyl in and around the Craven County area was sentenced Tuesday, according to the office of United States Attorney Michael Easley.

On March 3, Ivan Leonardo Medina-Beltran, 45, pled guilty to the charges. Medina-Beltran is an undocumented noncitizen from Sonora, Mexico. He was sentenced to 420 months in prison for drug trafficking and gun charges. 

“Medina-Beltran supplied kilogram quantities of fentanyl and methamphetamine to the New Bern area. He even tried to coordinate the shipment of nearly a kilogram of highly pure methamphetamine to Eastern North Carolina while he was held in jail. The 35-year sentence stands as a warning to would-be drug traffickers. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is partnering with Craven County every day to keep deadly narcotics off our streets, and dismantling the drug-trafficking networks that supply them,” said U.S. Attorney Michael Easley.

“We are committed to collaborating with our law enforcement partners to investigate, disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal organizations that are responsible for the illicit distribution of methamphetamine and fentanyl that has resulted in the death of thousands and the ruining of lives and families throughout the country,” said Ronnie Martinez, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Charlotte that covers North and South Carolina. “This sentence sends a strong message to narcotic distributors that law enforcement will work aggressively with the United States Attorney’s Office to combat the poisoning of our communities with these egregious and dangerous drugs and bring those involved to justice.” 

“This prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office has eliminated a major source of methamphetamine and fentanyl in Craven County,” said Sheriff Chip Hughes.  “The Craven County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Bureau will continue to work with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to investigate, arrest, and prosecute drug traffickers.”

According to court documents and other information presented in court, HSI, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Craven County Sheriff’s Office in coordination with federal, state, and local law enforcement partners launched an investigation into a cartel-connected drug trafficking organization responsible for acquiring kilogram quantities of methamphetamine and fentanyl from the southwest border and distributing them in and around Craven County. Through the use of confidential sources, surveillance and controlled buys, law enforcement identified several high-level operatives in the organization, including the leader, Medina-Beltran.

From January to October 2022, law enforcement conducted sixteen controlled purchases of ice methamphetamine, fentanyl, and cocaine from Medina-Beltran and other members of the conspiracy. Medina-Beltran sold narcotics directly to confidential informants working at the direction of law enforcement. On September 7, 2022, he sold over 60 grams of fentanyl to a confidential informant, while on September 8, 2022, he sold over 290 grams of ice to a confidential informant.

On October 31, 2022, multiple search warrants were executed at residences associated with the DTO, including the residence of Medina-Beltran. The search of his home yielded five grams of cocaine, an AR-15 style 5.56 rifle, a .45 caliber handgun, and cash. While in pretrial custody, Medina-Beltran coordinated a shipment of approximately two pounds of ice methamphetamine from California to the Eastern District of North Carolina, which was seized by law enforcement.

Multiple other individuals associated with the DTO, including two other high-level operatives have been indicted. Xavier Garza (4:22-cr-00075-D-3) pled guilty to drug trafficking and firearm charges on May 16, 2023. Sentencing is pending in his case.

This investigation was an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launders, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

Michael Easley, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge James C. Dever III. The Drug Enforcement Administration; Homeland Security Investigations; United States Postal Inspection Service; the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation; the Craven County Sheriff’s Office, and the New Bern Police Department investigated the case and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Katherine Englander and Caroline Webb prosecuted the case.