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Florida man sentenced to 21 years after drug arrest in Swain County

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger sentenced Jorge Luis Perez, 36, of Wimauma, Florida, to 260 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release on drug and gun charges, announced Dena J. King, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

According to court documents and court proceedings, between May and July 2020, Perez distributed methamphetamine, heroin and fentanyl in Jackson and Swain Counties. Law enforcement conducting an investigation into drug trafficking networks operating in Western North Carolina learned of Perez’s drug trafficking activities in the area. Court records show that Perez obtained his drugs from drug distributors in Mexico by way of Georgia. Perez then distributed the drugs in North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. According to court records, on May 21, 2020, law enforcement conducted a traffic stop of Perez’s vehicle in Sylva, North Carolina. Over the course of the stop, law enforcement recovered a distribution quantity of methamphetamine, a firearm, and $10,384 in U.S. currency. Perez falsely claimed that he won the money at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino.

According to court records, on July 13, 2020, law enforcement stopped Perez’s vehicle for a traffic violation. In the vehicle, law enforcement found a larger distribution quantity of methamphetamine and a set of digital scales. Later the same day, a search warrant was executed at Perez’s camper. Law enforcement seized from the camper two firearms, more methamphetamine, a money counter, and several AR-15 magazines and ammunition. Law enforcement also found several wire transfer receipts indicating that Perez was wiring money to Mexico, under false names and addresses. In the camper, Perez also had a shrine dedicated to Santa Muerte, who has been adopted by drug traffickers as a folk “patron saint.”

Perez was arrested in Florida on January 5, 2022, on charges arising from his criminal conduct in North Carolina. Perez was in possession of another distribution quantity of methamphetamine at the time. During the course of the trial, several more ounces of methamphetamine and a kilogram of heroin were attributed to Perez.

A federal jury convicted Perez on November 9, 2022, of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and possession with intent to distribute at least 50 grams of “actual” methamphetamine.

At Thursday’s sentencing hearing, the Court enhanced Perez’s sentence, after the Court found that Perez obstructed justice on a number of occasions. First, Perez filed a petition falsely claiming that the $10,384 seized by law enforcement was the result of several days of winnings at the Casino. Then again during his federal trial, Perez lied under oath that he was a tomato farmer and had never been involved in drug trafficking activities. Perez also lied about owning the camper and claimed that he had not lived in the camper for over a year. Over the course of the trial, Perez lied again about the source of the $10,384 seized by law enforcement.

Perez is currently in federal custody. He will be transferred to the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility.

U.S. Attorney King credited today’s sentence to the investigative efforts of the Asheville, North Carolina and Tampa, Florida Offices of the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Jackson County, Swain County, and Transylvania County Sheriff’s Offices in North Carolina; and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Florida.

Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Kent, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, prosecuted the case.

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