Source: US Immigration and Customs Enforcement
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A Honduran national was sentenced to five years in federal prison June 28 for possession with intent to distribute nearly two kilograms of cocaine following an investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Corpus Christi with the assistance of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and U.S. Border Patrol.
Edwin Lopez-Chavez, 28, was sentenced Tuesday in the Southern District of Texas. On March 25 he was convicted of possession with intent to distribute cocaine after a jury deliberated for less than five hours following a two-day trial.
Lopez-Chavez, a noncitizen, is expected to face removal proceedings following his sentence.
At trial, the jury heard that Lopez-Chavez was a passenger in a vehicle that entered the primary inspection area at the Border Patrol checkpoint near Sarita on Aug. 22, 2021. A K-9 alerted to the vehicle which was then sent to the secondary inspection area for further investigation.
During secondary inspection, authorities discovered three non-U.S. citizens inside the trunk of the vehicle including Lopez-Chavez who admitted he was a citizen and national of Honduras who was illegally present in the U.S.
Law enforcement ultimately found four bundles of cocaine taped to his ankles and inside his waist band. Lopez-Chavez admitted the bundles contained narcotics.
However, during trial, Lopez-Chavez attempted to convince the jury that he transported the cocaine because some cartel members who were allegedly involved in moving him, and other unlawful noncitizens north had threatened him.
The jury heard that Lopez-Chavez could have used his cell phone to contact law enforcement at any time or told law enforcement at the checkpoint that he had been forced to transport the narcotics, however he did neither. Additional evidence showed that he had lied to authorities during an interview by saying that his phone had no service in the U.S. A forensic report of his phone revealed otherwise.
At the hearing, the court heard testimony that detailed how Lopez-Chavez had received money in his jail commissary account from a person related to human (noncitizen) smuggling. Lopez-Chavez claimed he was unfortunate to get involved with the wrong people as he was attempting to illegally enter the U.S. The jury ultimately did not believe his claims and found Lopez-Chavez guilty as charged.
Lopez-Chavez will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined soon.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Amanda L. Gould and Liesel Roscher prosecuted the case.
HSI is on the front lines of the global fight to identify, disrupt and dismantle drug cartels and other transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) engaged in illegal narcotics smuggling activities. HSI utilizes its expansive statutory authorities, undercover capabilities, border search authority, robust domestic and international footprint, criminal analysis capabilities and strong interagency partnerships at home and abroad to launch complex criminal investigations designed to expose and take down sophisticated networks that produce, transport, broker, finance, sell and distribute illegal narcotics. These efforts have resulted in some of the most significant arrests of traffickers and seizures of illicit drugs across the globe. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, HSI arrested more than 12,900 individuals suspected of narcotics smuggling and drug trafficking-related offenses and seized more than $188 million in illicit drug trafficking proceeds and more than 2.45 million pounds of illegal narcotics.
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