Bentonville Man Sentenced To Over 8 Years In Federal Prison For Firearms And Drug Possession

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

FAYETTEVILLE – A Bentonville man was sentenced on April 6, 2022, to 100 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release on one count of Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Offense. The Honorable Judge Timothy L. Brooks presided over the sentencing hearing in the United States District Court in Fayetteville.

According to court documents, in March 2021, the Bentonville Narcotics Unit began investigating Rafael Melendrez, age 37, for drug trafficking. An anonymous tip indicated that Melendrez, was staying at a residence in Bentonville and selling drugs.  The investigation revealed that Melendrez was a probation absconder with an active warrant out for his arrest.

On April 9th, 2021, while conducting surveillance, detectives observed Melendrez leave the residence in a vehicle. Melendrez was subsequently traffic stopped by a uniformed officer and arrested based on the outstanding warrant for absconding.

After the arrest, a search of Melendrez’ residence was conducted by detectives and Arkansas Community Corrections Officers. The search resulted in detectives locating multiple vacuum sealed packages, Ziplock baggies, and glass containers filled with marijuana (later totaling approximately 8.14 pounds), a money counting machine, two food processing machines used to vacuum seal the marijuana, two digital scales and 13 firearms. Detectives also located a safe that contained $48,150.00 in United States currency.     

U.S. Attorney David Clay Fowlkes of the Western District of Arkansas made the announcement.

The Bentonville Narcotics Unit and Homeland Security Investigations Fayetteville investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Harris prosecuted the case.

This case was prosecuted as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.