Post sponsored by NewzEngine.com

Federal, State, and Local Authorities successfully cooperated to take down violent drug trafficking organization

Zachary Moorhouse, age 37, from Sioux City, Iowa, the final member of a methamphetamine drug trafficking organization that attempted to murder a suspected government witness to protect itself, was sentenced today to a prison term of more than three years in federal prison.  Moorhouse had previously pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance on December 19, 2019.

Evidence presented by the United States at the detention, change of plea, and sentencing hearings in this case revealed that from about January 1, 2018, to about March 6, 2019, Isaac McDonald, Oscar Garcia, Andrew Nissen, Jessica Rose Ott, William David Schoen, and Moorhouse conspired to sell methamphetamine in the Sioux City area within 1,000 feet of a local playground.  At some point, certain members of the drug conspiracy began to suspect another individual was cooperating with the police and providing information regarding their illegal activities.  On the evening of August 1, 2018, Ott got into a car already occupied by Isaac McDonald, Oscar Garcia, and Andrew Nissen, and informed them of the suspected informant’s location.  Nissen, who was armed with a handgun, drove the car to the suspected informant’s location.  McDonald and Garcia, both also armed with handguns, got out of the car and approached the suspected informant. The suspected informant saw the gunmen coming and tried to escape by driving away.  He did not get far.  McDonald began firing.  A bullet he fired passed through the suspected informant’s head.  The suspected informant lost control of his car and crashed into a tree.  Assuming the suspected informant was dead, the gunmen returned to their car and the foursome sped away.

Fortunately, the suspected informant was not killed in the attack.  Despite McDonald having fired multiple rounds, nobody else was injured, including a person hiding in the back seat of the suspected informant’s car.    

Moorhouse was the driver during drug sales and supply runs, invested small amounts of his own money in the conspiracy, and personally distributed methamphetamine to a handful of the conspiracy’s customers.  He was not involved with the violence mounted to protect the organization.  Similarly, while Schoen participated in the drug trafficking conspiracy, and later violently resisted arrest, he did not participate in the shooting of the suspected informant.

“As this case demonstrates, drug trafficking poses a significant threat to the safety of our communities,” said United States Attorney Peter Deegan.  “Our office will hold accountable anyone who uses weapons or threats of violence to distribute drugs.  We commend all of our federal and state law enforcement partners that participated in this investigation.  Through their hard work and dedication, they ensured these violent individuals are off of our streets and have made us all safer.”

Sioux City Police Chief Rex Mueller stated, “This case highlights how effective programs like Project Safe Neighborhood/Project Guardian are at encouraging productive working relationships between local and federal authorities. Working as a team operating off the same playbook creates a seamless flow of intelligence and direction to facilitate iron clad casework. We continue to value the working relationship we enjoy with the United States Attorney’s Office and our local federal law enforcement agencies. The partnerships established for the mutual benefit of positive public safety makes Sioux City a better place to live, and led to countless successful federal prosecutions of dangerous offenders.”     

On October 30, 2019, Andrew Nissen, the getaway driver, was sentenced in Sioux City by United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand.  Nissen was sentenced to 188 months’ imprisonment and was ordered to make restitution to the suspected informant.  He must also serve an 8-year term of supervised release after the prison term.  There is no parole in the federal system.

On December 5, 2019, Jessica Ott, the person who provided the firearm for the shooting and the location of the victim, was sentenced in Sioux City by United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand.  Ott was sentenced to 180 months’ imprisonment and was ordered to make restitution to the suspected informant.  She must also serve an 8-year term of supervised release after the prison term.  There is no parole in the federal system.

On December 11, 2019, McDonald, the shooter, was sentenced in Sioux City by United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand.  McDonald was sentenced to 300 months’ imprisonment and ordered to make restitution to the suspected informant.  He must also serve an 8-year term of supervised release after the prison term.  There is no parole in the federal system.

On January 3, 2020, Oscar Garcia, the armed wingman/second gunman, was sentenced in Sioux City by United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand.  Garcia was sentenced to 180 months’ imprisonment and ordered to make restitution to the suspected informant.  He must also serve an 8-year term of supervised release after the prison term.  There is no parole in the federal system.

On January 7, 2020, William Schoen, a violent member of the conspiracy, was sentenced in Sioux City by United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand.  Schoen was sentenced to 147 months’ imprisonment.  He must also serve a 5-year term of supervised release after the prison term.  There is no parole in the federal system.

On April 29, 2020, Zachary Moorhouse, a member of the conspiracy, was sentenced in Sioux City by United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand.  Moorhouse was sentenced to 40 months’ imprisonment.  He must also serve a 5-year term of supervised release after the prison term.  There is no parole in the federal system.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN).  PSN is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.  PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

This case is also part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019, Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities. The United States Attorney’s Office has prosecuted this case with support from our Project Guardian partners.  For more information about Project Guardian, please see https://www.justice.gov/ag/page/file/1217186/download.

The case was investigated by the Tri-State Drug Task Force based in Sioux City, Iowa (that consists of law enforcement personnel from the Drug Enforcement Administration; Sioux City, Iowa, Police Department; Homeland Security Investigations; Woodbury County Sheriff’s Office; South Sioux City, Nebraska, Police Department; Nebraska State Patrol; Iowa National Guard; Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement United States Marshals Service; South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation), the Sioux City, Iowa Police Department, the South Sioux City, Nebraska, Police Department, the United States Marshal’s Service, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, and the Woodbury County Attorney’s Office.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Forde Fairchild. 

Court file information at https://ecf.iand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl

The case file numbers are 19-4021 and 18-4078.

Follow us on Twitter @USAO_NDIA.

MIL Security OSI