Joplin Man Convicted in Meth Conspiracy

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A jury convicted a 24-year-old Joplin man after less than two hours of deliberation for his role in distributing large amounts of meth in southwest Missouri.

Santiago Soto-Garcia was found guilty Thursday of participating in a conspiracy to distribute meth, possessing meth with the intent to distribute and possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime.

The jury also convicted him of a forfeiture allegation, requiring him to forfeit $7,000 - seized by law enforcement and derived from the proceeds of the conspiracy - to the government.

Three co-defendants, 21-year-old Destiny O'Brien, of Joplin, and 24-year-old Michael L. Gonzalez, of Texas, also pled guilty to their roles. 

Gonzalez allegedly helped Soto-Garcia and O'Brien distribute multiple-pounds of meth in the Joplin area from late 2014 to August 2015. 

The three were arrested on Aug. 11, 2015, after a traffic stop, when a Joplin Police officer saw two pistols on the floor on the passenger side and they were told to get out of the vehicle. 

A K-9 was alerted to narcotics inside the 2006 BMW but when the officer tried to open the door, it was locked. 

Soto-Garcia, the driver, had locked the doors and when the officer asked for the key fob, Soto-Garcia threw it under the patrol vehicle and began struggling with the officers. O'Brien grabbed the key fob and also began struggling with officers. 

Then, officers arrested Soto-Garcia and O'Brien. When officers found a pound of meth in the BMW, they also arrested Gonzalez. 

After searching Soto-Garcia's home, investigators found a Smith & Wesson .40-caliber handgun, a Tanfoglio .40-caliber handgun, a Sig Sauer 9mm handgun, a North American Arms 22-caliber magnum revolver, ammunition, a bullet-proof vest, a money counter, and about five grams of meth. They searched a stash house as well, where they found a Phoenix Arms .22-caliber handgun and around 852.3 grams of methamphetamine hidden in an air vent. 

Soto-Garcia could be sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in federal prison up to life in prison without parole. 

The Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, ATF, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Joplin Police Department and Ozark Drug Enforcement Team investigated the case. 


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