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Press Release

Washington Men Convicted Of Meth Offenses

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Montana

The United States Attorney's Office announced that on August 6, 2014, a federal jury found Hector Magallon-Lopez, a 25-year-old resident of Toppenish Valley, Washington, and Cristobal Sanchez-Chavez, a 36-year-old resident of Union Gap, Washington, guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Magallon-Lopez was found guilty of an additional count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Both defendants are being detained pending their sentencing, which has not yet been set by the court.

During the trial, the Government, represented by Assistant United States Attorneys Brendan McCarthy and Tara Elliot, presented evidence that on September 26 and 27, 2012, members of the St. Louis Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) contacted members of DEA Billings regarding the drug trafficking activities of an organization out of Washington which was trafficking methamphetamine to St. Louis, Missouri. The St. Louis DEA intercepted several phone calls indicating that a Juan Sanchez-Hernandez and a Hector Magallon-Lopez were going to be transporting a large amount of methamphetamine from Washington to Minnesota.

On September 28, 2012, members of the Billings DEA and the Missouri River Drug Task Force (MRDTF) conducted surveillance near Three Forks and identified a vehicle occupied by two Hispanic males. A Montana Highway Patrolman initiated a traffic stop on the vehicle, which was registered to Magallon-Lopez at an address in Toppenish, Washington. The vehicle matched a description of a vehicle that was described on the wire. A wire allows law enforcement, with court approval, to intercept to telephone communications. The location of the vehicle was tracked by pinging the cell phone number from the wire.

During the stop, the Patrolman spoke with Magallon-Lopez, who stated that he was travelling from Washington to Minnesota to find work at a restaurant. Agents then requested a drug sniffing canine to inspect the vehicle. The first canine identified the odor of narcotics, and the car was brought to the Sweet Grass Sheriff's Office to conduct a search. However, agents learned that the canine's certification had lapsed. Therefore, agents requested a second canine to conduct a search. The second canine also indicated to the presence of narcotics in the vehicle.

Agents then applied for and were granted a search warrant to search the vehicle. During the search, agents recovered bags of methamphetamine hidden under the trunk area of the vehicle. The methamphetamine was later sent to the DEA Laboratory and the report indicates that there was approximately 975 grams of pure methamphetamine.

The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Updated January 14, 2015