SYRACUSE, NEW YORK – Kyle M. Leeper, 38, of Palmyra, Pa., pleaded guilty yesterday to committing murder in a drug conspiracy, conspiring to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, and possessed a firearm and ammunition as a convicted felon, U.S. Attorney Carla B. Freedman and Special Agent in Charge Janeen DiGuiseppi announced. in charge of the Albany field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The defendant pleaded guilty yesterday shortly before a federal jury trial set to begin 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, incarcerated in Indiana for burglary, provided Leeper with contact information for John Rice, an Indiana-based meth dealer, over the phone. Leeper communicated with Rice by phone and then twice traveled to and from Indiana in late 2018 and early 2019, where he obtained crystal meth and a .380 caliber pistol from Rice. Leeper distributed this meth in the Cortland area.

After Rice’s arrest in early January 2019, Leeper arranged to travel to the Los Angeles area to purchase more meth. From prison, Stephens provided Leeper with phone 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 such source. The source enlisted the help of Arlene Rodriguez, who introduced Leeper to an intermediary. On January 17, 2019, this middleman arranged for Leeper to purchase three pounds of crystal meth for $5,000. But, after the methamphetamine was delivered, Leeper realized he had been wronged over the amount delivered. Leeper abducted the middleman and Rodriguez at gunpoint. Later that day, Nieves Cotto purchased zip ties, which Leeper used to tie 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 traveled to Cortland, where Leeper distributed the methamphetamine he managed to obtain on that 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 9mm pistol. Upon returning to Cortland, Leeper, assisted by Rodriguez, began distributing this methamphetamine. On February 19, 2019, officers from the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office arrested Leeper and Rodriguez while driving Leeper’s pickup truck, which had an expired registration and cracked windshield. Inside the truck, 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 had previously been convicted of state and federal criminal offenses in Pennsylvania, and Rodriguez.

Kyle Leper is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 14, 2022, and could receive a sentence of 25 to 40 years in federal prison, followed by lifetime supervised release and a fine of up to $10.5 million. A defendant’s sentence is imposed by a judge based on the particular law the defendant is accused of breaking, US sentencing guidelines, and other factors.

Six (6) co-defendants have previously pleaded guilty to participating in the conspiracy with Kyle Leeper and/or aiding and abetting the murder. All are awaiting trial.

Jose Pimentel, Jr.., 31, of Los Angeles, Calif., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine.

Edgar Arredondo, 35, of Los Angeles, California, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine. He also pleaded 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, 57, of Crawfordsville, Indiana, of Los Angeles, California, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine.

Ramon Nieves Cotto30, of DeRuyter, New York, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting murder in a drug conspiracy and conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more methamphetamine.

Crystal J.Stephens34, of Groton, New York, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine.

Arlene N. Rodriguez38, of Montebello, Calif., pleaded 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 United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office (New York), the Police Department of Barstow (California) and San Bernadino County (California). Department, with assistance from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), Cortland County District Attorney’s Office (New York), Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department ( Indiana), of 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.

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