Cortland Co. deputies seize loaded handgun, $150K worth of methamphetamine

Kyle M. Leeper, 35, no known address; Arlene N. Rodriquez, 35, of Montebello, Calif. (Cortland County Sheriff's Office)

CORTLANDVILLE - Cortland County Sheriff’s officers seized more than $150,000 worth of methamphetamine and a loaded semi-automatic handgun during a traffic stop Tuesday morning, according to the department. The four pounds of meth could be broken down into more than 120,000 individual doses of meth, according to figures from an article available through the National Institute of Health database.

Officers discovered the drug cache and gun, along with 15 grams of marijuana and cash, after they pulled over a vehicle for having no registration about 8:19 a.m. in the Big Lots parking lot on Route 281 in Cortlandville, according to the department. The department did not release the amount of cash discovered.

Two people in the car were arrested and face felony charges - and the potential for additional federal charges.

Authorities seized more than 4 pounds of worth of methamphetamine—valued at $150,000—and a loaded semi-automatic handgun during a traffic stop Tuesday morning (Cortland County Sheriff's Office)

Kyle M. Leeper, 35, who is listed as homeless and is believed to be from outside the state, and Arlene N. Rodriquez, 35, of Carob Way, Montebello, CA, were both charged with second-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and second-degree conspiracy, felonies, as well as misdemeanor fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon and unlawful possession of marijuana, a violation.

Leeper was also charged with unregistered motor vehicle, unlicensed operator and visibility distorted by broken glass, vehicle and traffic law violations, according to the department.

No federal charges were filed, but Leeper and Rodriquez could be charged under the federal “Unlawful distribution, possession with intent to distribute, manufacture, importation and exportation” statute as they possessed more than 36-times the amount of methamphetamine listed under the law."Under the federal law, the pair could face 10 years to life in prison and a fine of $10-$50 million, according to a 2015 Congressional Research Service Report."

"Under the federal law, the pair could face 10 years to life in prison and a fine of $10-$50 million, according to a 2015 Congressional Research Service Report."

Lt. Todd Caufield declined to comment specifically on the possibility of federal charges. A department press release noted “the investigation is continuing and additional charges are possible.”

“We have to look at all the different avenues and which way this investigation could go,” Caufield said in an interview this morning.

The sheer volume of methamphetamine indicates the pair were selling the drugs, Caufield said. “You wouldn’t have just that for personal use,” he said.

The four pounds of meth also couldn’t be manufactured using a 2-liter soda bottle, sometimes called the  “one-pot” or “shake-and-bake” method, Caufield said. That method is commonly used by locals convicted of meth manufacturing.

The average soda bottle method can only yield about 12 grams of meth, according to BioMax Environmental, Inc., a California-based company that samples and assesses meth labs for environmental cleanup.

Meth is also manufactured in large, clandestine laboratories and distributed, according to the National Institute of Health.

“Most of the methamphetamine abused in this country is manufactured in “superlabs” here or, usually, in Mexico,” according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, an arm of the health institute.

“It’s definitely a good grab by the uniform officers that did this,” said Lt. Todd Caufield this morning. The officers were “alert” during the stop and followed where the evidence led them, Caufield said.

Caufield added the loaded gun was not used to threaten the officers during the arrest.

Courtroom Antics

Leeper and Rodriquez appeared in Cortlandville Town Court this morning before Judge Lenore LeFevre. Leeper was assigned defense counsel Ira Pesserilo, while Rodriguez was represented by Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Marris.

Pesserilo, who had not met Marris prior to this morning's court hearing, told Public Defender Keith Dayton, "Keith, you've got new blood in the Public Defender's Office!"

Judge LeFevre warned Pesserilo that his comments were in appropriate.

"That's no way to address an assistant public defender," LeFevre said.

Pesserilo then shook Marris' hand and exclaimed, "Welcome to the jungle!", which was met with laughter from the audience.

Pesserilo also told Judge LeFevre that he believed a trial was "almost a certainty" in the case of his defendant.

The pair is being held in Tioga County Jail without bail due to ongoing repairs at the Cortland County Jail. Their next court hearing is scheduled for Tues., Feb. 26, at 1:30 p.m. in Cortlandville Town Court.