Foreign National Sentenced For Role In Drug Trafficking Organization
Maria Elena Rico-Lopez, 33, a citizen of Mexico who most recently resided in St. Louis, MO, was sentenced on October 4, 2013, following her conviction for Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess With the Intent to Distribute Cocaine and Entry Into the United States Without Inspection, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen R. Wigginton, announced today. Rico-Lopez had been charged on August 22, 2012, in an eleven count indictment charging a total of ten individuals with being members of a large drug trafficking organization. Rico-Lopez was sentenced to 30 months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release. Rico-Lopez was also ordered to pay a $110 special assessment and to forfeit $23,560.00 to the United States. The Court also entered a Judicial Order of Removal, which requires her to be deported following the service of his sentence.
According to the Stipulation of Facts which was filed with the Court at the time of the plea, the organization charged in the Indictment was responsible for importing cocaine from Mexico into the United States, where it was taken to Salt Lake City, Utah. From Salt Lake City, the cocaine was transported by members of the conspiracy to the St. Louis Metropolitan area where it was distributed by various members of the organization, including some who operated within the Southern District of Illinois. Proceeds for the sales of the cocaine were then transported back to the leaders of the conspiracy in Salt Lake City.
Of the nine individuals named in the indictment with Rico-Lopez, six have entered pleas of guilty; two have been arrested and are awaiting trial; one is a fugitive. Those not yet convicted are presumed innocent because an indictment is a formal charge against a defendant. Under the law, a defendant is presumed to be innocent of a charge and is entitled to a fair trial at which the Government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Evidence in support of the indictment in this case was obtained in an investigation which was conducted under the auspices of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The OCDETF initiative is designed to bring federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and resources together to identify, target and dismantle large national and international drug trafficking organizations. Participating agencies include the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Homeland Security Investigations (ICE HSI), U.S. Marshal Service, the Granite City Police Department, Fairview Heights Police Department, the Collinsville Police Department, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the St. Louis County (Missouri) Police Department, the St. Charles County (Missouri) Sheriff's Department, and the Nebraska State Patrol. This case is assigned to Assistant United States Attorney Randy G. Massey for prosecution.