HAINES CITY, Fla. – A Haines City man with a lengthy criminal history and connections to a Mexican drug cartel was sentenced to prison for possession with intent to distribute approximately eight kilograms of methamphetamine resulting from an I-75 traffic stop in South Georgia.
James E. Freitas, 48, was sentenced to serve 360 months in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release by U.S. District Judge Louis Sands on Dec. 29, 2022, after he previously pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.
Co-defendant, Miguel L. Mora, 44, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine on Aug. 12, 2022, and is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 2. There is no parole in the federal system.
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“Individuals tied to criminal organizations trafficking large quantities of the most lethal controlled substances into our communities will face steep federal consequences for crimes which are contributing to the addiction and death of many Americans,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “Local, state and federal law enforcement teams are working to dismantle these cartels and hold the people associated with them responsible.”
“The sentencing of this reoffender is the result of the collaborative efforts between DEA and its law enforcement partners who work tirelessly to eliminate the distribution of the insidious drug methamphetamine,” said Robert J. Murphy, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division. “This defendant will now face serious time in prison.”
According to court documents, a Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office deputy attempted to conduct a routine traffic stop for a driving violation as Freitas was traveling on I-75 on July 11, 2019. Freitas was unable to provide identification and gave conflicting information.
As Freitas was standing outside the vehicle talking with the deputy, Mora climbed into the front seat and drove away in the car. Mora drove the vehicle into a field and then fled on foot into the woods carrying a large bag.
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Mora was quickly apprehended; the bag that he carried from the car was searched and found to contain 8,099 grams of 97% pure methamphetamine with an estimated street value of $748,000. On the floorboard of the car, officers found a loaded .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol with an obliterated serial number possessed by Freitas.
A search warrant subsequently executed on Freitas’ cell phone found photos of the gun, plus text and WhatsApp instant messages detailing both defendants’ travel to and from Nashville, Tennessee, to purchase and transport methamphetamine to a third party in Florida.
The WhatsApp messages were between Freitas, a member of a Mexican drug cartel, and higher-ranking leaders within the organization concerning the distribution of methamphetamine.
Freitas has a lengthy criminal history with prior felony drug convictions for possession and trafficking of controlled substances in Florida. Mora has a lengthy criminal history, with convictions in Arkansas and Florida, including a prior felony conviction for trafficking amphetamine.