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May 13, 2011

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(McALLEN, Texas) – Third conviction for drug trafficking nets local man a lifetime in federal prison without parole, U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno and Immigration and Customs Enforcement - Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Jerry Robinette announced today. 

Gilbert Lopez, 52, of Rio Grande City, Texas, the last of  four persons charged with conspiring to possess with intent to distribute almost 2000 kilograms of marijuana and more than 400 kilograms of cocaine, has been sentenced to a mandatory life term in federal prison without parole. U.S. District Judge Randy Crane handed down the mandatory sentence at a hearing today in federal court in McAllen. Indicted in 2006, along with three others, Lopez pleaded guilty in March 2007. The life sentence was mandated under applicable federal law, upon the filing of an enhancement by the United States based upon Lopez’s two prior drug trafficking felony convictions.  
“While some may mistakenly view smuggling and trafficking in narcotics as a path to a quick profit, this lifetime prison sentence of a recidivist criminal demonstrates that serious consequences await those who engage in the smuggling,” said Robinette.

According to the record of this case, from Jan. 1, 2006, to June 5, 2006, Lopez and his co-defendants, knowingly and intentionally entered in an agreement to possess with the intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana. On June 5, 2006, Border Patrol agents patrolling near the river in Starr County, Texas, saw a pickup truck leaving a road that went directly to the river and followed that pickup truck to a residence where the truck pulled into the garage. As the agents approached the driver, identified as Gilbert Lopez, he ran into the house. The agents saw numerous bundles of drugs in both the bed of the pickup truck and also the cab driven by Lopez. One agent ran to the back of the house and saw three men jumping out of a window. He was able to arrest one of the men, Eddie Diaz. The other two individuals who fled were later identified as the truck driver, Gilbert Lopez, and Daniel Lopez (no relation).

A subsequent investigation revealed that the owner of that residence was Jose Angel Diaz. A search warrant was executed at the house and in addition to the drugs found in the truck driven by Gilbert Lopez, agents found more marijuana and cocaine inside the living room of that house. Agents seized a total of 468 kilograms of cocaine and 1,960 kilograms of marijuana.

Co-defendants, Eddie Diaz, 50, of Rio Grande City, Texas; Daniel Lopez, 43, of Garciasville, Texas; and Jose Angel Diaz, 56, of Rio Grande City, Texas, have all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute narcotics and have been sentenced to 60, 150 and 210 months in federal prison without parole, respectively. Each is presently serving his sentence in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons. Gilbert Lopez is in federal custody and will remain in custody pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility to be designated in the near future.  

The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by Border Patrol and ICE-HSI. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Juan F. Alanis and Anibal Alaniz prosecuted the case.

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