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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Arkansas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, October 13, 2016

Three Springdale Residents Sentenced to Total of 17 Years in Federal Prison for Drug Offenses

            Fayetteville - Kenneth Elser, United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced that Cinthia Banegas-Ruiz, age 23, was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison followed by 3 years of supervised release on one count of Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine. The Honorable Timothy L. Brooks presided over the sentencing hearing this week in the United States District Court in Fayetteville.

            According to court documents, in January of 2015, the Drug Enforcement Administration, in conjunction with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and local law enforcement agencies, began investigating a drug trafficking organization operating out of the Springdale and Rogers areas of Arkansas. On November 10, 2015, law enforcement received information that Jose Lepe, a co-defendant of Banegas-Ruiz, would be traveling to Texas to pick up methamphetamine and bring it back to the Western District of Arkansas where it would be distributed.

            Agents conducted surveillance of the vehicle as the vehicle travelled to the Dallas, Texas area and then returned to the Western District of Arkansas. Law enforcement officers stopped the vehicle on Interstate 49 as it traveled northbound, in the Western District of Arkansas.  Jose Lepe was identified as the driver of the vehicle and Banegas-Ruiz was seated in the backseat next to her two-year-old daughter. Upon a search of the vehicle, a Ziploc bag containing 106 grams of actual methamphetamine was located between the backseat and a speaker box, in an area only accessible by folding down the backseat in the area where Banagas-Ruiz and her child were seated.

            Banagas-Ruiz provided a recorded statement to police, after waiving her Miranda rights.  She admitted that she went to Dallas thinking that the purpose of the trip was to drop of money owed for drugs and she agreed that bringing her daughter along made them look less suspicious to law enforcement. An analysis of Banegas-Ruiz’s text messages revealed further communications relating to the distribution of methamphetamine. 

            A federal Grand Jury issued an Indictment for Banegas-Ruiz, Jose Lepe, and Rigoberto Benavidez on January 27, 2016. Banegas-Ruiz pleaded guilty on May 13, 2016.

            Benavidez and Jose Lepe were both sentenced after pleading guilty to charges related to the distribution of methamphetamine. On July 11, 2016, Rigoberto Benavidez, age 26, was sentenced to 100 months imprisonment, followed by 3 years supervised release. And, on August 23, 2016, Jose Lepe, age 25, was sentenced to 63 months imprisonment followed by 3 years supervised release.

            “Methamphetamine brings chaos into the lives of those who are addicted to or live around it,” stated Matthew Barden, DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Little Rock District Office. “Cinthia Banegas-Ruiz’ sentencing should be a warning to anyone thinking of polluting our communities with this addictive substance, especially those who endanger children in the process.  DEA, along with our law enforcement partners are committed to investigating anybody that participates in the distribution of methamphetamine and other illegal and dangerous narcotics.”

            This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Rogers Police Department, Springdale Police Department, and Arkansas State Police.  Assistant United States Attorney Kimberly Davis Harris prosecuted the case for the United States.

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Related court documents may be found on the Public Access to Electronic Records website @ www.pacer.gov

 

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Updated October 13, 2016