FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
WEDNESDAY - April 1, 2009
MAJOR COCAINE TRAFFICKER SENTENCED
RALEIGH - United States Attorney George E.B. Holding announced that in federal court here on March 27, 2009, United States District Judge James C. Dever, III, sentenced JULIAN AVILEZ-LOPEZ, 32, of Newton Grove, North Carolina, to 144 months imprisonment followed by five years supervised release.
On March 14, 2008, a federal grand jury returned a Criminal Indictment charging AVILEZ-LOPEZ, an illegal alien, with multiple offenses. On July 22, 2008, AVILEZ pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than five (5) kilograms of cocaine in the Eastern District of North Carolina, as well as a money laundering violation stemming from an undercover operation.
AVILEZ-LOPEZ was the main target of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Operation: Northern Star. Northern Star is an investigation which has targeted middle to upper-level drug traffickers based in Goldsboro, North Carolina, as well as the Wayne, Lenoir, and Sampson County areas. AVILEZ-LOPEZ and his associates were responsible for importing and distributing hundreds of kilograms of powder cocaine and other illegal narcotics throughout the Eastern District of North Carolina, and for laundering the proceeds from the drug sales. From approximately 2006 through February 2008, the organization distributed multiple kilograms of cocaine on behalf of a Mexican drug organization.
AVILEZ-LOPEZ used the Tienda Avilez convenience store, which he operated in Newton Grove, as a base for his narcotics trafficking. The monetary proceeds of AVILEZ-LOPEZ and his co-conspirators’ illegal activities were laundered through various bank accounts and through the store via domestic and international wire transfer services to Mexico and elsewhere. As a part of his guilty plea, AVILEZ-LOPEZ forfeited his interest in several pieces of real property located in Sampson County, North Carolina, all of which were used to facilitate his drug trafficking activities.
Mr. Holding commented: "The best manner in which to dismantle a drug trafficking organization is to charge and convict all participants in an effort to rid the community of the entire criminal enterprise. That is what we've tried to do here."
Investigation of this case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration - Raleigh Office, Wayne County Sheriff's Office, Goldsboro Police Department, Sampson County Sheriff’s Office, Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Special Assistant United States Attorney Imelda J. Pate and Assistant United States Attorney Brian S. Meyers represented the Government in this case. Ms. Pate is an Assistant District Attorney who prosecutes cases arising out of Lenoir, Wayne, and Greene Counties. District Attorney C. Branson Vickory has assigned her to the United States Attorney's Office to prosecute federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force criminal matters.
News releases are available on the U. S. Attorney’s web page at www.usdoj.gov/usao/nce within 48 hours of release.