IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - More than 20 years after fleeing from justice, a former Deadhead convicted in an alleged drug conspiracy unexpectedly turned himself in, authorities said Tuesday.
Matthew Samuel West, 49, showed up Dec. 27 in the lobby of the Linn County Jail in Cedar Rapids to surrender. West was convicted in 1992 of conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute LSD and had been wanted since missing a 1994 federal court hearing. He’s being jailed after a federal judge ordered him detained pending further proceedings.
Lt. Kent Steenblock, the assistant jail administrator, said it’s “very rare” for a longtime fugitive to give up seemingly out of the blue.
The FBI said West fled Iowa in 1994 but what he did over the last 20 years remains unclear. His wife divorced him in absentia in 1999, Iowa court records show. At least three of his alleged co-conspirators completed sentences of prison and supervised release, the last being discharged in 2005.
West’s attorney didn’t return a message seeking comment.
When the FBI added West to its list of wanted fugitives, the agency noted that he once owned and operated a Cedar Rapids tie-dye shop, played in a local band and coached the drum line. The FBI described West as artistic, saying he designed shirts that he sold at Grateful Dead concerts that he “usually attended during the 1980s and into the 1990s.”
A jury had convicted then 27-year-old West in December 1992 of the drug conspiracy charge. He faced a mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison because the conspiracy involved more than 10 grams, but was free on bond during his appeal.
In 1993, federal prosecutors obtained an indictment with additional drug and money laundering charges against West. West was part of an alleged conspiracy to distribute LSD from 1990 to 1992, sending wire transfers totaling $3,125 from Cedar Rapids to a co-conspirator at locations in Oregon and Texas, the indictment alleges.
According to the FBI, West fled Iowa before a hearing on whether his pretrial release should be revoked.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jon Scoles ruled last week that West would remain jailed pending his sentencing, which hasn’t yet been scheduled. Scoles also set a Feb. 9 trial on the second indictment.
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