SYRACUSE, NEW YORK – Kyle M. Leeper, age 38, of Palmyra, Pennsylvania, pled guilty yesterday to committing murder during a drug conspiracy, conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, and possessing a firearm and ammunition as a convicted felon, announced United States Attorney Carla B. Freedman and Janeen DiGuiseppi, Special Agent in Charge of the Albany Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The defendant entered his guilty plea yesterday shortly before a federal jury trial scheduled to begin on Monday May 16, 2022, in Utica, New York.
As part of his guilty plea, Leeper admitted the following: He was part of a conspiracy that trafficked methamphetamine from Indiana and Southern California to Cortland County, New York, where Leeper distributed it. In the fall of 2018, Crystal Stephens, of Groton, New York, who was incarcerated in Indiana on burglary charges, provided Leeper by telephone with contact information for John Rice, an Indiana-based methamphetamine dealer. Leeper communicated with Rice by telephone and then travelled to and from Indiana twice in late 2018 and early 2019, where he obtained crystal methamphetamine and a .380 caliber pistol from Rice. Leeper distributed this methamphetamine in the Cortland area.
After Rice was arrested in early January 2019, Leeper arranged to travel to the Los Angeles area to purchase more methamphetamine. From jail, Stephens provided Leeper with telephone numbers for possible methamphetamine sources in East Los Angeles. In mid-January 2019, Leeper and an associate, Ramon Nieves Cotto, drove from Cortland to Los Angeles, where Leeper contacted one of these sources. The source sought assistance from Arlene Rodriguez, who introduced Leeper to a middleman. On January 17, 2019, this middleman arranged for Leeper to buy three pounds of crystal methamphetamine for $5,000. But, after the methamphetamine was delivered, Leeper realized that he had been shortchanged on the quantity delivered. Leeper abducted the middleman and Rodriguez at gunpoint. Later that day, Nieves Cotto purchased zip ties, which Leeper used to bind the middleman. On the night of January 17, 2019, outside Barstow, California, Leeper shot the middleman eight times from behind with the .380 caliber pistol, killing him. Leeper and Nieves Cotto, along with Rodriguez, then drove to Cortland, where Leeper distributed the methamphetamine he managed to obtain on this trip to California.
In early February 2019, Leeper, Nieves Cotto, and Rodriguez returned to Los Angeles, where Leeper purchased an additional six to eight pounds of methamphetamine and a 9 mm pistol. Upon his return to Cortland, Leeper, assisted by Rodriguez, began to distribute this methamphetamine. On February 19, 2019, officers with the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office stopped Leeper and Rodriguez while they were driving in Leeper’s pickup truck, which had an expired registration and cracked windshield. Inside the truck, the officers found four pounds of high-purity methamphetamine, the loaded .380 caliber pistol Leeper had used to commit the murder, and ammunition. They arrested Leeper, who previously had been convicted of state and federal felony offenses in Pennsylvania, and Rodriguez.
Kyle Leeper is scheduled to be sentenced on September 14, 2022, and could receive a sentence of between 25 and 40 years in federal prison, to be followed by a lifetime term of supervised release, and a fine of up to $10.5 million. A defendant’s sentence is imposed by a judge based on the particular statute the defendant is charged with violating, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, and other factors.
Six (6) co-defendants previously pled guilty to participating in the conspiracy with Kyle Leeper, and/or aiding and abetting the murder. All are awaiting sentencing.
Jose Pimentel, Jr., age 31, of Los Angeles, California, pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute, and possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine.
Edgar Arredondo, age 35, of Los Angeles, California, pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine. He also pled guilty to charges based on his possession in the Central District of California of a shotgun, ammunition, and 50 grams or more of methamphetamine.
John Rice, age 57, of Crawfordsville, Indiana, of Los Angeles, California, pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine.
Ramon Nieves-Cotto, age 30, of DeRuyter, New York, pled guilty to aiding and abetting a murder during a drug conspiracy, and conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine.
Crystal J. Stephens, age 34, of Groton, New York, pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine.
Arlene N. Rodriguez, age 38, of Montebello, California, pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, and possession of a firearm in connection with a drug trafficking crime.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Cortland County (New York) Sheriff’s Office, the Barstow (California) Police Department, and the San Bernadino (California) County Sheriff’s Department, with assistance from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the Cortland County (New York) District Attorney’s Office, the Montgomery County (Indiana) Sheriff’s Department, the Montgomery County (Indiana) District Attorney’s Office, the Pomona (California) Police Department, and the El Monte (California) Police Department and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steven D. Clymer, Richard R. Southwick, and Thomas R. Sutcliffe.