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March 23, 2009

FORMER SAN BENITO POLICE OFFICER SENTENCED FOR TRAFFICKING IN MARIJUANA AND COCAINE

(BROWNSVILLE, Texas) - Edgar Heberto Lopez, 28, a former San Benito Police officer, has been sentenced to federal prison without parole for conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute marijuana, using a firearms during the commission of a drug trafficking offense and failure to appear for sentencing, acting United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today.

Lopez was indicted in March 2004 along with Reymundo Hernandez, 27, a former San Benito police officer, and Abelardo Cerecer Valdez, 39, all residents of Brownsville for their involvement in a scheme to steal drug loads and profit from the sale of the drugs. Lopez and his co-defendants pleaded guilty after their indictment. Hernandez was sentenced in June 2005 to 84 months prison, while Valdez received 36 months in 2004. Lopez, who had been released on bond, pleaded guilty on June 1, 2004, but failed to appear for his sentencing. He remained a fugitive until his arrest by deputies of the U.S. Marshals Service in April 2008. The additional felony charge of failure to appear for sentencing was filed against Lopez. 

This afternoon United States District Judge Andrew Hanen sentenced Lopez to serve to 97 months imprisonment for the conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana conviction, 97 months for possession with intent to distribute 110 kilograms of marijuana, to be served concurrently, and 60 months for using and carrying a firearm during a drug offense, which must be served consecutive to the sentence imposed on the drug offense convictions and seven months for the failure to appear, to be served consecutive to the other counts of conviction, for a total sentence of 164 months. In addition, Judge Hanen ordered Lopez to serve a five-year period of supervised release upon the completion of his prison sentence during which he must perform 200 hours of community service.

Lopez, Hernandez and Valdez conspired with one another to possess with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana between February 2003 and March 2004. The illegal activity originated with Lopez and Hernandez, who while on duty as police officers, stole or ripped-off a load of approximately 200 to 300 pounds of marijuana during a traffic stop of a Cadillac Escalade in February 2003 in the San Benito area. Lopez and Hernandez paid $1,000 to the tow truck driver for towing the Cadillac Escalade at their request to a location in San Benito, Texas.

Lopez, along with Valdez, owner of Fiesta Taxi in Brownsville, were later involved in the delivery of approximately 50 pounds of marijuana to undercover personnel in February 2004. Lopez and Valdez received $7,500 from a cooperating individual for this marijuana delivery. A third vehicle containing a purported six kilograms of cocaine was later stolen or “ripped-off” in March 2004 by Lopez. For his assistance in stealing the vehicle purporting to contain cocaine, Lopez was to receive $10,000. Lopez possessed his service weapon during the commission of the March 2004 delivery involving the cocaine, which served as the basis of the firearm charge and conviction. 

Lopez has been in custody since his April 2008 arrest and will remain in custody to serve his sentence.

The investigation leading to the charges and ultimately the conviction of Lopez and his co-conspirators was conducted by the FBI and the Texas Rangers with the assistance of the San Benito Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Oscar Ponce. 

 

 

 

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