Last Drug Organization Member Sentenced to Prison for Distributing Heroin
PHOENIX – The last of five members of a Drug Trafficking Organization which distributed heroin throughout Phoenix was sentenced this week by U.S. District Judge Susan M. Brnovich. On Feb. 22, 2019, Jose Lopez-Alvarado, 32, of Sinaloa, Mexico, was sentenced to ten years in prison followed by five years of supervised release. On Sept. 10, 2018, Jose Rivera-Lugo, 35, of Sinaloa, Mexico, was sentenced to seven years and six months in prison followed by five years of supervised release. On Sept. 10, 2018, Jhoanna Vargas-Quintana, 30, of Hermosillo, Mexico, was sentenced to five years and ten months in prison followed by five years of supervised release. On Oct. 22, 2018, Irene Thomas, 36, of Phoenix, Ariz., was sentenced to five years in prison followed by five years of supervised release. On March 11, 2019, Jorge Baez-Espinoza, 58, of Sinaloa, Mexico, was sentenced to five years in prison followed by five years of supervised release. All five defendants had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy or possession with intent to distribute heroin.
A collaborative investigation by federal and local law enforcement agencies showed that from Oct. 16, 2014, to Aug. 1, 2017, Lopez-Alvarado, Rivera-Lugo, Vargas-Quintana, Thomas, and Baez-Espinoza conspired together to possess with intent to distribute over six kilograms of heroin. On May 31, 2017, investigators observed and later seized 250 grams of heroin that Lopez distributed to Baez. Baez possessed a 9mm handgun at the time. On July 31, 2017, Lopez provided several firearms that he knew would be smuggled to Mexico by another person in a car. Investigators stopped the car on its way to Mexico and seized seven firearms, including a shotgun, three assault rifles, a .22 rifle, and two .38 caliber handguns. On Aug. 1, 2017, a federal search warrant was served at Lopez’s residence, resulting in the seizure of approximately five kilograms of heroin and an assault rifle.
The investigation in this case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Tempe Police Department. The prosecution was handled by Keith Vercauteren, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, Phoenix.
CASE NUMBER: CR-17-01165-PHX-SMB
RELEASE NUMBER: 2019-031_ Baez-Espinoza etal
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