New York Man Sentenced to 20 Months for MDMA Importation
A man from Rochester, New York, was sentenced to 20 months in prison for importing approximately 237 grams of MDMA from a supplier in Germany between March 23, 2017, and March 31, 2017. New York Homeland Security Investigations agents arrested the man on March 31, 2017, for possession with intent to distribute controlled substances.
A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York announced that U.S. District Judge Charles J. Siragusa had sentenced Steven Zepp, 28, to 20 months in prison for importing a controlled substance from a foreign country. In May, Zepp pleaded guiltyto importing a MDMA from Germany and waived indictment. The plea agreement was signed in conjunction with the filing of a single count criminal complaint modifying the charge from possession with intent to distribute to the import charge.
According to court documents filed by Special Agent Francis Zabawa of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Customs agents at the JFK International Airport intercepted three packages of MDMA between March 23, 2017, and March 31, 2017. The packages came from an address in Germany and the supplier had addressed them to a Joelle Devincentis at an address in Rochester, New York. Special Agent Francis Zabawa worked as a member of the HSI Buffalo Border Enforcement Security Taskforce (BEST) and both the package interceptions and investigation into the package recipients fell into BEST’s local domain.
The documents indicated that the literal packages of MDMA were weighed prior to the raid at the Rochester address. Another Homeland Security Investigations agent had conducted field tests on the suspected MDMA and received positive results for both methamphetamine and MDMA. BEST seized three packages within roughly one week and, by the third and final package interception, had investigated the package recipient and prepared a controlled delivery at the Rochester address. BEST worked with Delany E. De Leon-Colon, the Acting Inspector-in-Charge of the United States Postal Inspection Service’s Boston Division to prepare the controlled delivery and with Major Eric Laughton of the New York State Police on the raid and arrest.
On March 31, BEST and USPIS prepared a controlled delivery of the package. They substituted the MDMA with an undisclosed “uncontrolled substance” and placed an electronic tracking device in the package that would alert law enforcement when the recipient had opened the package. HSI Special Agents, New York State Police, and USPIS agents surveilled the house while an undercover USPIS agent delivered the package to a person “known to law enforcement as” Joelle Devincentis. Devincentis accepted the package and carried it inside the house. Special Agent Zabawa wrote that law enforcement had waited a “reasonable amount of time” but the beacon inside the package had not sent the alert they had expected. So they made the decision to raid the house on the basis that Devincentis had accepted the package and taken it into the house.
During the raid, the police detained Devincentis in the kitchen and Zepp in the bedroom upstairs. Law enforcement discovered drugs in containers throughout the house but noted that the room Zepp had been staying in contained the majority of the drugs. They found scales, bags of methamphetamine and MDMA, Xanax bars, marijuana, “edible marijuana liquid,” and morphine pills. Devincentis waived her Miranda Rights and answered the Special Agent’s questions. She said that the only drugs in the house that belonged to her were two Xanax bars, two morphine pills, a quantity of marijuana, and some of the “edible marijuana liquid” stored in vials in a “doorless closet.”
Devincentis told the HSI Special Agent that she had not ordered the package. She said that Zepp had recently moved into her spare bedroom and that Zepp had purchased something online and had used her name and address on the package. Zepp, according to Devincentis, had requested that Devincentis sign for the package (or accept it) and then place the package in a drawer in one of the bedrooms. Zepp had not touched the package when the police raided the house. Devincentis denied knowledge of the contents of the package. Zepp denied knowledge of any drug importation, possession, or distribution. He denied knowing anything about drugs.
The plea agreement provided Zepp with the best possible outcome in a situation such as the one he had created for himself; in exchange for his admission of guilt, the prosecution recommended a very minimal sentence for a crime with a 20 year maximum. “The government and the defendant agree that approximately 237 grams of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is the amount involved in the defendant’s relevant conduct encompassed in the Information which could be readily proven by the government against the defendant,” the plea agreement detailed.
Zepp will serve less than two years in prison and pay a $100 fine. He also forfeited the drugs found at Devincentis’ house.