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Jan. 28, 2009

Woman Convicted in Kidnapping Conspiracy Involving Federal Judge

(HOUSTON) - Aracely Gonzalez, 53, of McAllen, has been convicted of conspiracy to commit kidnapping, acting United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. After two days of testimony from a government witness, Gonzalez changed her plea from not guilty to guilty on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2009.
During the trial, the evidence established that a confidential FBI informant was approached by Gonzalez’s co-defendant, Joel Lopez Sr. in July 2007 regarding the murder and/or kidnapping of a federal judge in the Southern District of Texas and a woman from Roma, Texas, who owed Lopez money for prior drug dealing activities. At this time, both Lopez and the informant were incarcerated in the Federal Detention Center in Houston. Lopez instructed the confidential informant to contact his wife, Aracely Gonzalez, when he was released from FDC.

According to the evidence, from September 2007 through March 2008, Gonzalez and the confidential informant spoke numerous times in recorded conversations regarding the kidnapping and murder for hire plot. Specifically, Gonzalez agreed with the confidential informant and Lopez to kidnap the woman from Roma and seek approximately $100,000 in ransom money.  During this period of time, Gonzalez visited Lopez on two occasions at a federal prison in Pollock, La., and discussed the kidnapping plot. 

In March 2008, the FBI staged the kidnapping of the Roma woman. Gonzalez accepted approximately $50,000 from the confidential informant, which was represented to be the proceeds of the kidnapping, and was subsequently arrested.

As a result of her conviction, she faces a sentence up to life imprisonment and a $250,000 fine or both. Sentencing has been set for May 15, 2009, at 10:00 a.m. before Judge Melinda Harmon.

The trial of Gonzalez’s co-defendant Joel Lopez Sr. is set for March 16, 2009.

This case was investigated by the FBI and was tried by Assistant United States Attorneys Jay Hileman and Ryan D. McConnell.


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