News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 17, 2007
Contact: Steve Hooten
206 553-1155

Mexican Based Drug Organization Courier Receives Ten Year Sentence

(SPOKANE) – DEA Special Agent in Charge Rodney G. Benson and James McDevitt, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington announced today, that on May 16, 2007, Guillermo Lopez-Morales, the last of 19 defendants was sentenced to 121 months in federal prison for his participation as a drug courier for a large-scale, Mexico-based methamphetamine and cocaine trafficking organization.

Lopez-Morales, originally from Mexico and residing in Payette, Idaho, received the sentence after a three-day trial in which the jury found Mr. Lopez-Morales guilty of conspiring with others to distribute methamphetamine and using a telephone in furtherance of the conspiracy.

During the summer of 2004, DEA positively identified three members of the Mexico-based drug trafficking organization, Jose Luis Carrillo-Mendez, Carlos Santos, and Mario Garcia-Cebreros, who were distributing methamphetamine and cocaine in Spokane, Washington. The investigation revealed that when drug couriers were arrested the organization would simply replace them with another drug courier. That led to the formation of “Operation Replacements,” a multi-agency investigation headed by DEA. During the winter of 2004-2005, DEA learned that on a nightly basis, local lower-level, Spokane-area addicts and traffickers would contact Carrillo-Mendez, Santos, and/or Garcia-Cebreros and request methamphetamine and/or cocaine in varying amounts to include pound quantities. Another member of the organization would then deliver the requested amount of methamphetamine and/or cocaine at parking lots of various fast food restaurants, supermarkets, or motels in Spokane Valley. DEA was not only able to observe approximately 10-15 drug deliveries each night; the DEA was also able to purchase methamphetamine and cocaine through the use of an undercover agent.

The DEA estimates that between November 2004 and February 2005, the organization distributed in excess of 33 pounds of methamphetamine and 5-15 kilograms of cocaine in Spokane by conducting these nightly transactions. In order to supply the nightly deliveries, Carrillo-Mendez directed other members of the organization, such as Mr. Lopez-Morales, to act as drug couriers and travel to California, obtain pounds of methamphetamine and kilograms of cocaine, and deliver the drugs to the Kennewick and Pasco, Washington, areas for re-distribution in Spokane, Idaho, and Montana. Mr.Lopez-Morales was found guilty of agreeing to make such trip in December 2004.

SAC Rodney Benson said, “Operation Replacements was designed to weed out and dismantle a methamphetamine trafficking organization which has been operating in Eastern Washington. The convictions and sentences handed out in this case tell the citizens of Washington and Spokane that the DEA and our law enforcement partners are committed to targeting groups like the Morales-Lopez organization and stemming the flow of methamphetamine into the northwest.”

To date, Mr. Lopez-Morales was the nineteenth person to be sentenced by the District Court to a substantial federal prison term for participation with this organization in the distribution of methamphetamine and cocaine in Spokane, Idaho, and Montana.

This investigation was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Spokane Regional Drug Task Force, comprised of the Washington State Patrol, the Spokane Sheriff’s Office and the Spokane Police Department. This case was prosecuted by Russ Smoot, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.