OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
MATT J. WHITWORTH
Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106
NOVEMBER 17, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CALIFORNIA MAN SENTENCED TO 22 YEARS IN PRISON
FOR METH CONSPIRACY
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Matt J. Whitworth, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that an Ontario, Calif., man was sentenced in federal court today for his role in a conspiracy to distribute millions of dollars worth of methamphetamine in Barton County, Mo., and elsewhere.
Jose Lopez, also known as David Cerpa, 40, of Ontario, Calif., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ortrie D. Smith this afternoon to 22 years and six months in federal prison without parole.
Lopez is the final defendant to be sentenced as a result of Operation Buckshot, a multi-agency investigation into a large-scale drug-trafficking conspiracy that involved the distribution of methamphetamine from California through Kansas City, Mo., and into southwest Missouri. That successful investigation resulted in the seizure of more than 38 pounds of methamphetamine, in excess of $100,000 in cash, four vehicles and 89 firearms, along with more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and blasting caps. Numerous federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in both Missouri and Kansas participated in Operation Buckshot.
Lopez admitted that he supplied methamphetamine to Randy S. Lucero, 34, of Highland, Calif., for distribution. Lucero then transported the methamphetamine – usually by a courier traveling via Amtrak – from California to his main distributor, co-defendant Michael L. Wilson, 33, of Lamar, Mo. Wilson then distributed the methamphetamine to his distributors in western Missouri and eastern Kansas.
Law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Wilson’s residence on July 11, 2007, seizing approximately three kilograms of methamphetamine, $37,880 and two vehicles that were used to facilitate the conspiracy.
Lucero was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison without parole. Wilson was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison without parole.
Lopez and Lucero, along with Juan Lara, 61, of Ontario, Calif., and Moises Medina, 50, of Pueblo, Colo., were arrested in August 2007 when they traveled to Kansas City to deliver a shipment of methamphetamine to Wilson. Police officers discovered 26 individually wrapped packages containing 11.62 kilograms (approximately 25 pounds) of methamphetamine in a hidden compartment of the Chevrolet Trailblazer that was driven by Medina, in which Lopez was a passenger.
Lara was sentenced to life in federal prison without parole. Medina was sentenced to 21 months (time served) in federal prison.
Twelve additional co-defendants have also pleaded guilty to their roles in the drug-trafficking conspiracy and have been sentenced.
Ronald Willis, 63, of Lamar, was sentenced to 12 years and six months in federal prison without parole. Roderick P. Conway, 38, was sentenced to 11 years and eight months in federal prison without parole. Harold Heath Foster, 35, of Lamar, was sentenced to 11 years and eight months in federal prison without parole. Dustin L. Vittetoe, 35, of Horton, Mo., was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison without parole. Vittetoe also admitted that in June 2007 he approached an agent with the Community Narcotics Enforcement Team (CNET) and attempted to bribe the officer to provide protection for the drug-trafficking organization. David C. Paniagua, 40, of Highland, Calif., was sentenced to six years and eight months in federal prison without parole. Brandon R. Stone, 27, of Nevada, Mo., was sentenced to six years and eight months in federal prison without parole. Daniel Jeffrey McCann, 48, of Lamar, was sentenced to five years and six months in federal prison without parole. Joseph M. Kutina, 32, of Milo, Mo., was sentenced to two years in federal prison without parole. Timothy D. Kennon, 49, of Lamar, was sentenced to two years and six months in federal prison without parole. Ronald L. Hampton, 39, of Liberal, Mo., was sentenced to 20 months (time served) in federal prison. The court also ordered Hampton to forfeit to the government 24 firearms that were used to commit the offenses along with $6,729, which represents proceeds from the conspiracy. Michael C. Turner, 47, of Pittsburgh, Kan., was sentenced to time served. Michael Robert Conway, 68, of Freistaff, Mo., was sentenced to time served.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David P. Rush. It was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the sheriff’s departments of Vernon, Barton, and Jasper Counties, CNET (the Community Narcotics Enforcement Team), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, IRS-Criminal Investigation, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and the police departments of Lamar, Mo., and Nevada, Mo.
This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, is available on-line at