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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Central District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, November 17, 2016

Desert Hot Springs Man Found Guilty by Federal Jury of Multiple Firearms Violations and Distribution of Methamphetamine

            LOS ANGELES – The first of six defendants charged as the result of an anti-gang operation in the Coachella Valley earlier this year has been found guilty of possession of an unregistered short barreled shotgun, being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, and two counts of distribution of methamphetamine.

            Mario Vincent Lopez, 49, of Desert Hot Springs, who had previously been convicted of multiple state felony offenses, was found guilty yesterday by a federal jury that deliberated for less than an hour.

            Lopez will face a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in federal prison – and a possible term of life imprisonment – when he is sentenced by United States District Judge André Birotte Jr. on February 13, 2017.

            “Illegal firearms and drug trafficking is a volatile combination that poses a significant danger to the community,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This defendant was undeterred by his prior felony convictions, but now he faces a much longer prison sentence as a result of this jury’s verdicts.”

            Lopez was one of six men charged as the result of an investigation by the Coachella Valley Gang Impact Team, a joint task force involving both federal and local authorities. All six men have been in custody since they were arrested in June.

            In addition to Lopez, Julio Cesar Gomez, also known as “Spanky,” 31, of Indio; Angel Alejandro Carmona, aka “Lil Criminal,” 30, of Coachella; and Steven Andrew Gonzalez, aka “Cubs,” 32, of Indio, were charged with engaging in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Gomez was also charged with being a felon in possession of an assault rifle with an obliterated serial number, and Carmona was charged with being a felon in possession of a .357-caliber handgun. These three defendants are scheduled to go on trial on April 18, 2017.

            In another case, Francisco Remigio Figueroa, aka “Toro,” 34, of Desert Hot Springs, was charged in an indictment with distributing methamphetamine and marijuana. Figueroa was also charged with possessing a 20-gauge shotgun and ammunition after being convicted of multiple state felonies. Figueroa’s trial is set for February 21, 2017.

            Finally, Donnie Darnel Dennis, 38, of Desert Hot Springs, was charged with distributing methamphetamine. His case is set for trial on January 24, 2017.

            An indictment or criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

            The Gang Impact Team is a multiagency task force responsible for conducting gang, firearm and violent crime investigations throughout Riverside County. The team is made up of officers and agents from local, state, county and federal agencies, and it is part of the Riverside County District’s Attorney’s Office Organized Crime Bureau. The Team includes representatives from the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; the United States Border Patrol; the Riverside County Housing Authority; and the Desert Hot Springs Police Department.

            The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Abigail Evans and Sean Peterson of the Riverside branch office.

Press Release Number: 
16-286
Updated November 17, 2016