GULFPORT -- The discovery of crystal meth hidden in ice chest linings has led to a man's guilty plea to conspiracy to deliver more than 10 pounds of meth from Los Angeles to Harrison County.
James Michael "Jimmy" Robinson, 35, pleaded guilty Monday to a conspiracy charge involving meth trafficking in U.S. District Court.
The charge carries maximum penalties of 20 years in prison, a $1 million fine and three years' probation.
Judge Sul Ozerden set sentencing for May 24.
Never miss a local story.
Crystal meth, the purest form of meth, is also known as ice.
Robinson's arrest was part of a Drug Enforcement Administration investigation that began in Gulfport with help from the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and led to related federal indictments. It's unclear if a Los Angeles supplier has been arrested.
Drug agents received a tip in March that Robinson was trafficking ice from LA to Harrison County in trips that began as early as mid-November 2014, an affidavit said.
On one trip, a source said, an associate of Robinson, Joseph W. Moran Jr. rented a van in D'Iberville and took a large amount of money to LA to get several pounds of meth hidden in vacuum-sealed bags in the side walls of Igloo-type coolers.
Photos confirm link
Agents said they found pictures of Robinson with Moran and of Robinson holding coolers and meth he obtained in LA. Moran, 38, of Saucier, is now in prison.
Robinson had offered to pay another person $800 per trip to drive meth from LA to South Mississippi, the affidavit said. That person later became a cooperating defendant.
DEA agents in New Mexico arrested Robinson on Sept. 29 at the Albuquerque International Sunport. He was wanted on a Harrison County warrant for a felony meth indictment. New Mexico agents said Robinson admitted he had 12 ounces of meth in a cooler in his vehicle.
He is held without bond. A federal grand jury indicted him Nov. 9.
Leads to a supplier
A May 19 traffic stop for littering in Harrison County led to related arrests and convictions of Moran and James D. Byrd, 51, of Vancleave. A police dog found meth in their vehicle, court papers show, and Byrd said they obtained the meth from a woman he knew only as "Poca" or "Pocahantas." Byrd recalled her room number at a motel in Channelview, Texas.
Moran and Byrd accepted plea deals and are each serving time for interstate travel in aid of drug racketeering enterprises.
Woman nabbed in raid
Drug agents from Houston raided a motel room at the Shady Glen Motel in Channelview later on May 19 and arrested Rachel Esparza Saenz, 50, of Webster.
Drug agents said they found meth and crack cocaine in her room and surveillance footage showed Moran and Byrd entering the motel and leaving with a bag of meth.
Saenz has admitted trafficking meth.
She faces up to 20 years at her March 22 sentencing on a conspiracy charge.