News and Press Releases

Jose Maria Soto-lopez Sentenced in U.S. District Cour

Friday, February 03, 2012

The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Missoula, on February 3, 2012, before U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy, JOSE MARIA SOTO-LOPEZ, a 59-year-old citizen of Mexico, appeared for sentencing. SOTO-LOPEZ was sentenced to a term of:

Prison: 46 months

Special Assessment: $100

SOTO-LOPEZ was sentenced in connection with his guilty plea to illegal re-entry.

In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Racicot, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:

On March 23, 2011, SOTO-LOPEZ was a passenger in a vehicle that crashed on I-90 in Gallatin County. SOTO-LOPEZ was traveling from California to Wisconsin with a woman and her 16-year-old son. The woman suffered serious injuries in the crash and her son died. SOTO-LOPEZ suffered minor injuries. Officers in Gallatin County believe that SOTO-LOPEZ convinced the woman and her son to accompany him from Wisconsin to California to pick up marijuana and approximately 15 pounds of marijuana was seized from an area near the scene of the crash.

During the investigation surrounding the traffic stop, officers suspected that SOTO-LOPEZ was not authorized to be in the United States. On March 28, 2011, SOTO-LOPEZ was processed and interviewed by ICE Detention and Removal officers. He admitted that he is a citizen of Mexico, that he had been deported from the United States to Mexico in the past, and that he did not have permission to be in the United States.

A review of immigration records confirmed that he is a citizen of Mexico and that he was deported from the United States on December 6, 1996, following his conviction in the Northern District of Illinois on May 28, 1992, for possession with intent to distribute cocaine.

Further review found no evidence that SOTO-LOPEZ had applied for or received permission to enter or reside in the United States with either the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security or the Attorney General.

Because there is no parole in the federal system, the "truth in sentencing" guidelines mandate that SOTO-LOPEZ will likely serve all of the time imposed by the court. In the federal system, SOTO-LOPEZ does have the opportunity to earn a sentence reduction for "good behavior." However, this reduction will not exceed 15% of the overall sentence.

The investigation was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations.



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