POCATELLO – Gabriel Lopez, 46, of Tucson, Arizona was sentenced to five years in federal prison for possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, U.S. Attorney Josh Hurwit announced today.
According to court records, Lopez was arrested on July 19, 2021, after detectives with the BADGES Task Force conducted an investigation and found a bag containing 1,694 pills that tested positive for fentanyl in Lopez’s vehicle during a traffic stop. The approximate street value of the pills seized is $34,000-$42,500. Lopez admitted to police that he knew that the pills contained fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is often disguised as oxycodone, blue pills stamped with “M 30.” Most fentanyl is produced in Mexico by drug cartels. Inconsistent dosages in illicitly manufactured pills containing fentanyl have contributed to a dramatic increase in overdoses across the county. Approximately 42% of fentanyl pills seized by law enforcement have a lethal dose of fentanyl in them.
“Fentanyl is a deadly poison causing incalculable harm across country, and unfortunately Idaho is not exempt from this crisis,” said U.S. Attorney Hurwit. “We must band together to raise awareness, and our Office is grateful to work with dedicated law enforcement partners to take this drug off of our streets and to remove from our communities those who peddle it.”
“These are important cases as the drug trade and illicit drug use takes a deadly toll on our communities,” said Oregon-Idaho High Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Lieutenant Clint Skinner. “Over the past three years, we have seen an increase of fentanyl in Idaho; it is addictive and dangerous. Law enforcement agencies will continue working together to interrupt the supply while community support is needed to address demand for the drug. A five-year sentence taking almost 1,700 pills off our streets is a success. We thank all the agencies involved.”
U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill also ordered Lopez to serve five years of supervised release following his prison sentence. Lopez pleaded guilty to the charge on April 28, 2022.
U.S. Attorney Hurwit, of the District of Idaho, commended the cooperative efforts of the BADGES Task Force which led to charges.
The BADGES Task Force is a multi-jurisdictional narcotics task force that identifies, disrupts, and dismantles local, multi-state, and international drug trafficking organizations using intelligence-driven, multi-agency prosecutor-supported approach. BADGES Task Force is supported by the Oregon-Idaho High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) which is composed of members from the Idaho State Police, Pocatello Police Department, Bannock County Sheriff’s Department, Chubbuck Police Department, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
This case was handled by the U.S. Attorney Office’s specially deputized Special Assistant U.S. Attorney (SAUSA), funded by the Eastern Idaho Partnership (EIP) and the State of Idaho. The EIP is a coalition of local city and county officials in eastern Idaho as well as the Idaho Department of Correction.
The EIP SAUSA program allows law enforcement to utilize the federal criminal justice system – through the EIP SAUSA – to prosecute, convict, and sentence violent, armed criminals and drug traffickers. These criminals often receive stiffer penalties than they might in state courts.
This program was created in January 2016. Since that time, approximately 199 defendants have been indicted by the EIP SAUSA. Of these defendants, 146 have been indicted on drug trafficking charges. The defendants indicted under the program have been sentenced to 8,469 months (approximately 706 years) in federal prison, representing an average prison sentence of 54 months (4.5 years). Defendants indicted for drug trafficking offenses serve, on average, approximately 58.2 months (4.85 years) in federal prison.
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