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Jeremy Meeks' social media fame grows despite weapons, gang-related charges

By Faith Karimi, CNN
updated 5:52 AM EDT, Sat June 21, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Meeks, 30, became an Internet sensation after police released his mugshot
  • Authorities say his looks don't translate into a model citizen
  • He was arraigned Friday on counts related to firearm possession
  • This is not his first time behind bars

(CNN) -- Jeremy Meeks' steely baby blues and chiseled cheekbones may be attractive. His rap sheet -- not so much.

The 30-year-old stirred a collective swoon nationwide after authorities in Stockton, California, posted his arrest mugshot on social media this week.

The picture turned him into an overnight celebrity and prompted various memes, including photo shop images replacing his plain white T-shirt with spiffy high-end suits.

But authorities say he's not such a model citizen. And this is not his first time behind bars.

Meeks, a convicted felon who's served years in prison, was arraigned Friday on counts related to firearm possession, gang membership and probation violation.

In the latest arrest, Stockton police stopped him and two others Wednesday during a joint law enforcement gang sweep, authorities said.

Meeks was driving and one of the passengers, Terry Bailey, 23, was on probation.

"A search of the passenger compartment yielded a 9mm round of ammunition and a small amount of what is believed to be marijuana," the San Joaquin County District Attorney said in a statement. "A search of the trunk located an unregistered and loaded ....45 caliber semiautomatic handgun along with two extended magazines."

They did not say whom the guns belonged to, but everyone in the car faces felony weapons charges.

Drawing fans ...

Meeks' prior brushes with the law include resisting arrest and admitted ties to the Crips gang, authorities said. He also spent two years in prison in 2002 for a grand theft conviction, according to the District Attorney's office.

"With his past history, he got out of being incarcerated and put his mind on focus to his family and started doing what he had to do," his brother, Bryan Varela, told CNN affiliate KOVR. "Living the dream that he always wanted."

Despite his ill fame, the fans keep coming.

His arrest mugshot is still a talker on social media. On Facebook, someone created a Jeremy Meeks fan page, which had nearly 90,000 Likes and counting early Saturday.

"Criminal or not, if he looks good he just looks good," Santana Martin posted under his picture. "People are not saying he's right for whatever he did. They're just saying he looks good enough to make a mugshot look like a photo shoot."

... and critics

But others are unswayed by his looks.

"The women who think that this guy is hot are only fueling the fire of criminals and crime, and if they're too ignorant to realize that then they deserve him," Clark Foreid posted.

His fans may have to wait a little longer before they see him out of the jail setting.

During the arraignment, authorities raised his bail to $1 million from $900,000 a day earlier. His next court appearance is Friday.

Katherine Angier, who said she's his mother, has launched a fundraiser for his defense at crowdsourcing website GoFundMe.

She posted pictures of Meeks with his son and other family members, describing him as a father and a husband who was on his way to work when he was arrested. He has no ties to any gang, she said.

"He has old tattoos ... which causes him to be stereotyped," she wrote on the fundraiser page. "He's my son and he is so sweet. Please help him to get a fair trial or else he'll be railroaded."

By early Saturday, she had raised $2,000.

And some commenters on GoFundMe have raised a ruckus, blasting her efforts on her son's behalf.

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