The ringleader of a Natrona County-wide methamphetamine conspiracy was sentenced to 15 years in prison on drug and gun charges on Tuesday, according to federal court documents.

Three other defendants whose cases are in federal court have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

Michael Perez, nicknamed “Money Mike,” was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and a consecutive five-year sentence for possession of a firearm during a federal drug-trafficking crime.

Michael Perez
Michael Perez

One count of felon in possession of a firearm was dismissed at sentencing as part of a plea agreement when he pleaded guilty on Feb. 28 to the other two crimes.

U.S. District Court Judge Alan Johnson also placed Perez on five years of supervised probation after his release from custody.

Perez was among area residents investigated for their roles in a methamphetamine conspiracy last fall, and he and three others were bound over to federal court: Keith Crakaal who was charged with conspiracy, possession of stolen firearms and felon in possession of firearms, and Jerry Lane and Kristopher Hodgins who were each charged with one conspiracy count.

Hodgins pleaded guilty to conspiracy on May 8, and his sentencing is scheduled for July 17.

Lane pleaded guilty to conspiracy on May 18, and his sentencing is scheduled for July 31.

Crakaal pleaded guilty to conspiracy and possession of stolen firearms on May 18. The third count of felon in possession of firearms will be dismissed at his sentencing scheduled for Aug. 3.

Law enforcement had been investigating the conspiracy last year.

On Sept. 30, Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation agents interviewed Benjamin Wentz at a home in the 400 block of South McKinley Street, according to an affidavit of probable cause,

Wentz allegedly told agents that he'd recently sold meth and that he sold it to "anyone and everyone who wanted some."

Other suspects investigated and prosecuted on the state level were Amanda Rodriguez, Blake Creekmore, Kenneth Lee Dalton and Makayla Helms-Pickett.

The investigation continued through October and most of the defendants were arrested in November, according to the affidavit.

After Perez's arrest, investigators learned he "carries heavy," as in weapons. One informant reportedly told DCI agents that Perez also had "thousands of dollars in his pockets."

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