US Department of Labor awards $50.6M in Pathway Home Grants to provide pre-release job training, services to incarcerated people

Source: US Department of Labor

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced the award of $50,643,113 in Pathway Home grants to 18 organizations in 14 states to provide training and employment services to adults reentering the workforce following incarceration in a local jail or state correctional facility.

“Leaders across all industries recognize that providing incarcerated people with quality job training creates opportunities for them to reunite with their families, enter the workforce and attain stable, quality employment upon release,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. “The Department of Labor supports the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to empowering Americans who have paid their debt to society by providing them a pathway to a seamless transition to employment and reentry support.”

Administered by the department’s Employment and Training Administration, the Pathway Home grants will allow organizations to provide training and employment services to incarcerated people who are scheduled for release within 20 to 270 days from the time they enroll in the project. They also seek to improve coordination between key partners in the reentry process, including workforce development agencies, community and state corrections agencies, jails, local health and human service providers, employers and unions.

On March 7, 2022, the department announced the availability of grants to improve employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals, while meeting the needs of the local labor market. The reentry grants support the Biden-Harris administration’s comprehensive strategy to lower recidivism rates and decrease crime.

The list of the recipients for the third round of Pathway Home grants follows this news release.





Televerde Foundation




Little Rock Workforce Development Board

Little Rock



Mother Lode Job Training




Career Resources Inc.




Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity




Foundation for an Independent Tomorrow

Las Vegas



Mid-Atlantic States Career and Education Center




Workforce Connection of Central New Mexico




Fedcap Inc.

New York



National Urban League

New York



Center for Community Alternatives




The RIDGE Project Inc.




Harbor Inc.




Delaware County Workforce Development Board

Upper Darby



Hampton Roads Community Action Program Inc.

Newport News



Total Action Against Poverty in Roanoke Valley Inc.




Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council




Workforce Services State of Wyoming




Humans of NCEI: Sarah Morison

Source: US National Oceanographic Data Center

Here at NCEI, we aren’t just data—we are people. In our Humans of NCEI series, meet the awesome minds that manage one of the largest archives of atmospheric, coastal, geophysical, and oceanic research in the world. Get to know Sarah Morison, the Finance and Acquisition Branch (FAB) Acquisition and Grants Section Chief. 

Image courtesy of Sarah Morison, NOAA NCEI.

What is your job title?

Finance and Acquisition Branch (FAB) Acquisition and Grants Section Chief. 

What is your specific area of expertise?

I focus on NCEI contracting – getting NCEI the services and items that are needed to meet its mission. I’m also responsible for grants and agreements, which are other means of meeting NCEI and its partners’ goals. 

What was your first job? How did it prepare you for your current position?

I worked for my dad at his hardware store. The most applicable skill learned was using a calculator without needing to look at the keys.

How did you end up at NCEI?

I applied for a job announcement while I was on maternity leave. I was working at the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) as a Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR) and occasional Chief of Staff in Maryland and my parents had retired to Asheville, so I had an alert set on USAJobs for positions there.

What does a usual workday look like for you?

Meetings and emails, lots of quality time in NCEI’s Electronic NCEI Routing System (eNRS), and explaining to people what they can and cannot do with contracts and purchasing. I also talk a lot to contract Project Managers and Task Managers to make sure the work we have contracted for is meeting Government requirements. I read lots of emails to maintain situational awareness, in case one of my colleagues wins the lottery and I’m suddenly called to do something I understand only in theory. I’ve only been a supervisor for three months, so I’m also trying to figure out how that needs to change my daily activities. And then there are always those random questions that nobody has an answer for – I enjoy chasing down an answer.  

What question are you asked most often when someone finds out what you do? How do you respond??

I tell people I work in acquisitions for the federal government and nobody ever asks a follow-up question. 

What sort of training and education would one need for your job?

I have no idea. I stumbled into acquisitions as “other duties as assigned” when I was working in the National Ocean Service Office of Response and Restoration. As I was looking for other opportunities, it became quite obvious that being a Contracting Officer’s Representative and understanding acquisitions is a much more transferable skill set than marine policy. 

What inspired you to pursue a career in your field?

I thought the international diplomacy involved in ocean use was really interesting.  

What projects are you working on now? Are there any upcoming projects that you are excited about?

Most of my work is cyclical based on the government fiscal year and contract acquisition timelines and need dates, not project-specific.

What is your favorite aspect of your job?

I like helping people get their jobs done, and for those who need to learn the execution side of money, making the training as entertaining as possible.

Who are you outside of your career?

Mom, daughter, gardener, book reader (to myself and out loud to others), friend, cleaner, washerwoman, sister, cousin, TV-watcher, fixer, and long long ago, when all my free hours were my own, I wove tapestries. 

The United States Provides Immediate Assistance to Respond to Drought in Kiribati

Source: USAID

The United States, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is providing $500,000 in humanitarian assistance to respond to the drought across Kiribati due to below normal rainfall exacerbated by the ongoing impacts of climate change. So far this year, some areas have recorded less than 2.3 inches of rainfall total. The resulting drought has affected all 123,000 people residing in Kiribati, including 94,000 people in the severely impacted Gilbert Islands, which is heavily dependent on rainwater harvesting. 

This funding allows USAID partner United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) to immediately strengthen the capacity of the government to monitor groundwater, including the salinity levels, and provide critical water conservation and treatment messaging to affected populations. U.S. officials in the region and Washington, D.C. are closely monitoring humanitarian impacts of this drought in coordination with partners throughout the region. The United States stands with communities in Kiribati as they continue to face the impacts of this drought.

USAID has long supported early recovery, risk reduction, and resilience initiatives throughout the Pacific, including in Kiribati, to support disaster preparedness and response capacities. In Kiribati, this includes efforts to mobilize youth and volunteers in disaster preparedness through the Kiribati Red Cross Society (KRCS) and capacity building for the KRCS through the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. USAID will continue to work with partners year-round to equip communities to withstand disasters.

Administrator Samantha Power Launches up to $30 Million TradeBoost Program in Zambia in Support of the Prosper Africa and Feed the Future Initiatives

Source: USAID

Today, Administrator Samantha Power launched a groundbreaking new $30 million, subject to appropriations, trade and investment program, called TradeBoost Zambia, that will advance the U.S. government’s Prosper Africa and Feed the Future initiatives. TradeBoost is among the first projects to be launched as part of USAID’s new continent-wide Africa Trade and Investment program, the Agency’s flagship effort in support of Prosper Africa. TradeBoost will amplify market intelligence, increase investment in Zambian businesses, and direct targeted trade facilitation support to Zambian businesses to reach regional and international markets. TradeBoost prioritizes locally-led development with all sub-contracts and grants going to local partners. The program will focus on businesses led by women and young people who invest in climate smart production.    

As part of this new trade and investment program, Administrator Power announced two private sector partnerships that will enhance Zambia’s ability to grow food for people across Africa.

First, the Administrator announced deals with two Zambian companies – Zdenakie and NewGrowCo – to export 17,500 metric tons of maize and soybeans from Zambia valued at $8.5 million. These companies expect to move at least 1,300 metric tons of grain to East Africa in a matter of days. To accelerate these exports, USAID is structuring a revolving credit facility that will give Zambia grain traders the finance they need to rapidly buy, aggregate, and export grain. The facility is projected to support the export of an additional 30,000 metric tons of needed grain across Africa going forward.  

Second, through a $200,000 grant, USAID unlocked a $4.5 million investment in Zambia’s macadamia sector. Macadamia nuts are a high-value export, bringing in additional investment and further strengthening Zambia’s role as an agricultural exporter. South African investment firm Foxfin Financial Services will purchase a 165 hectare farm from Golden Dawn Zambia, develop an irrigation system, install solar energy, and plant 45,000 macadamia nut trees. This deal will support sustainable, climate smart agriculture and create nearly 100 jobs, the majority of which will be held by women. 

Through the Prosper Africa initiative, USAID is leveraging private sector partnerships to ensure all people have the opportunity to create a better life for their children, their families, and their communities. USAID is committed to strengthening trade and investment ties between African nations and the United States – creating jobs, advancing solutions to pressing global challenges, and spurring private investment at a scale that could never be matched by foreign aid alone. 

With more than $1 billion per year in funding, Feed the Future is leveraging existing technical expertise, programs, and partners in more than 35 countries to mitigate the impacts of this latest global shock. In these countries, the U.S. government takes a coordinated approach to its investments and in turn, paves the way for further resources and investment from other actors, such as the private sector, donors, and local governments. 

For more information about Prosper Africa, visit

For more information about Feed the Future, visit

USAID Announces $14.2 Million to Boost Inclusive Economic Development in Zambia

Source: USAID

The United States government has announced the launch of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Business Enabling Project, a five-year, $14 million initiative, subject to appropriations, designed to spur economic development in Zambia.

Specifically focused on the development of rural communities, the project will generate incentives for private-sector investments in agriculture, eco-tourism, energy, sustainable natural resource management, and trade across Zambia, and expand women’s economic participation. By targeting legislation, procedures, and regulations that hinder women’s access to finance and their ability to own and expand businesses, the project seeks to unleash the power of Zambia’s greatest untapped resource—women entrepreneurs.

Built on a collaborative approach, the USAID Business Enabling Project will strengthen communication across the Zambian government, private sector, and civil society. Aligned with the Zambian government’s newly launched Public-Private Dialogue Forum, the project will also promote greater engagement from the public on key challenges to businesses. 

By driving innovation and digital solutions to Zambia’s most challenging business roadblocks, improving government regulations, and creating more business-friendly processes and requirements, Zambia will be open for U.S. investment and well positioned for increased two-way trade with the United States.

The new project will lay the groundwork for fully opening Zambia up for business, and create opportunities for women and others who have often been excluded from economic opportunities in Zambia, thereby benefiting all Zambians.

Administrator Samantha Power Good Nature Agro Visit Lusaka, Zambia

Source: USAID

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Good morning everyone, and thank you, Sunday, for that introduction. It’s been the highlight of my trip to Zambia so far to hear about all that Good Nature Agro has accomplished in the fight against food insecurity and poverty, and thank you for the tour of the warehouse. I can honestly say, I’ve learned more about legumes than I ever thought I would!

It was also wonderful to speak with Samson Nyendwa from Corteva Agriscience. Samson and his team work closely with USAID and our coalition of private sector partners to provide smallholder farmers with healthy seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides, while also working with global NGOs and partners like John Deere to increase access to updated farming equipment. Thank you for being here Samson.

It was a pleasure to meet the rest of the Good Nature team, and I was fortunate enough to hear a little bit about how they got started. 

Back in 2014, Sunday Silungwe, Carl Jensen, and Kellen Hayes started Good Nature Agro to solve a problem: 90 percent of the food in Zambia is produced by smallholder farmers. But they lacked access to good, high quality seeds that could reliably produce what they expected.

So Sunday, Carl, and Kellen founded a business to produce seeds. They started by recruiting commercial farmers to grow key legumes like soybeans, groundnuts, beans, and cowpeas—crops that reduce the need for nitrogen fertilizer and actually replenish the soil, and whose seeds can then be sold to smallholder farmers. 

Of course in Zambia, a healthy seed is half the battle. If their harvest was successful, farmers rarely had means of storing and selling their crop, and lacked access to capital or lending to pursue upgrades. So Good Nature Agro sought to address those problems too. They gave each of their partner farmers a customized package of agricultural inputs tailored to meet their individual farming needs—and they gave them access to the financing to help them produce as many seeds as possible. 

But it doesn’t stop with a packet. Throughout their time with Good Nature, in both the growing season and off-season, farmers receive advice and assistance from a network of agents. And they get access to competitive markets where they can sell the seeds that they’ve harvested, resulting in profits that are higher than what they could achieve elsewhere. 

In 2017, we at USAID took notice of Good Nature’s success. Through Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s principal food security program, we gave Good Nature a grant of less than $500,000. 

And with that relatively modest investment, Good Nature used it to launch a new program, Good Nature Source, to provide the same services they give to commercial seed growers—customized inputs, financing, agricultural extension services, and a guaranteed market to sell their output—to smallholder farmers. 

In just a few short years, and with a little jumpstart from USAID, Good Nature has helped to feed literally millions of Zambians and established an entire network of farmers who made enough money to escape poverty and enter the middle class. 

Good Nature is such a strong testament as to why private sector engagement is crucial. As much as I wish we could, the United States cannot tackle the problem of global food security alone. The commitment and resources it will take to tackle food insecurity here in Zambia is going to take far more than government assistance alone. 

Before the war in Ukraine, more than 1.2 million Zambians were food insecure, and that number is surely higher now with skyrocketing food, fertilizer and fuel prices. 

The United States understands the acute needs and unpredictable repercussions stemming from the war in Ukraine, so with our allies in Congress, we are pledging an additional $9 million to immediately address the high cost of fuel, fertilizer and food in Zambia. 

But Zambia’s potential is such that we must not only work to overcome this crisis, but bet on the country’s future as an agricultural power. Zambia can not only grow enough food to feed its people—it already grows 84 percent of calories consumed in the country—it can become a leading exporter of food across its eight regional neighbors.

As we know, Good Nature Agro is embracing this opportunity, marshaling our support and that of other partners and investors to generate new and creative solutions that will help meet the needs of the people of Zambia and beyond.

And USAID is eagerly looking for the next Good Nature throughout Zambia, so that in this time of crisis, we can stretch our development dollars to tackle food insecurity.

A few weeks ago, in partnership with the U.S Development Finance Corporation, we launched a $20 million loan guarantee with ABSA Bank that will spur them to extend badly needed credit for small and medium-sized enterprises that are advancing food security and climate solutions in the agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, and clean cooking sectors, with a specific focus to lend to underrepresented borrowers. 

This partnership will lead to further investments into agribusinesses throughout Zambia that will bolster food production domestically while providing high-value exports to surrounding neighbors.

And I’m pleased to announce that today, USAID will launch a new, $30 million trade and investment program that we are calling TradeBoost Zambia. This program is designed to bring expertise to Zambian agricultural enterprises to help them boost their productivity and fuel regional exports. Though we’re launching this program today, this work is already beginning. We crafted export deals with two Zambian trading companies––Zdenakie and NewGrowCo––to provide Kenya and Rwanda with 17,500 metric tons of Zambian-grown maize and soybeans valued at $8.5 million. By next week, at least 1,300 metric tons will be exported to East Africa, with the ambition to move an additional 30,000 metric tons of grain. 

TradeBoost is also making deals to expand other agricultural sectors that have the potential to produce high-value exports.  

In partnership with the South African investment company Foxfin, we will make an investment in Zambia’s growing macadamia nut sector. Because of a $200,000 investment from USAID, Foxfin has committed $4.5 million to purchase a 165 hectare farm and build an irrigation system, install solar panels, and plant 45,000 macadamia nut trees, creating nearly 100 jobs, more than three-quarters of them designated specifically for women. 

Here in Zambia, women make up over half of the rural labor market, but entrenched social norms have locked them out of not just employment, but accessing the tools they need to start their own business. 

With the support of our allies in Congress, we plan to launch a five-year, $14 million Business Enabling Project, focused on making it easier for women to start businesses. Through this effort, we will work with key ministries within the Zambian government to break-down structural barriers that inhibit womens’ ability to access capital, legal services, marketing assistance and digital tools they need to start competitive businesses.

And earlier this week, President Biden announced that the U.S will expand our Feed the Future initiative—the U.S. government’s landmark food security initiative—to eight new target countries, including Zambia. As a Feed the Future focus country, our teams will work with Zambia to identify targets and goals for its agricultural sector and provide increased levels of data collection and market analysis that we can use to drive more and more effective private and public investment. 

In the coming months the global fight against food insecurity will be daunting, no doubt. All told, the world will invest billions to attend to the emergency humanitarian needs that are spiraling around the world in dozens of countries. 

But what Good Nature’s success demonstrates is that ingenuity exists throughout our world to end global hunger and drive agricultural productivity. With just a little effort—a small grant or loan at the right time, the right connections, a dose of expertise, a better enabling environment, or access to new markets—that ingenuity can quickly be harnessed to feed millions of people, and help smallholder farmers escape lives of grinding poverty. 

Thank you, and with that, I look forward to your questions. 

EPA Assistant Administrator for Water and Regional Administrator Visit South Florida Water Resources

Source: US Environment Protection Agency

ATLANTA (June 29, 2022) – On Friday, June 24, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox joined EPA Region 4 Administrator Daniel Blackman and U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz to visit Big Cypress National Preserve and Indian River Lagoon in South Florida. The site visits highlighted the importance of these unique and irreplaceable water resources as places worth protecting for the surrounding communities, South Florida’s ecological health, and its economy.

“This visit was such an important opportunity to get out and learn about these unique and irreplaceable water resources,” said EPA Assistant Administrator Radhika Fox. “These waters should be protected, and EPA is doing its part, including investing $4.5 million in the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program over five years through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Protecting these waters takes support from all levels of government and EPA stands ready to support the state of Florida in their efforts to protect and improve water quality.”

“Big Cypress National Preserve and Indian River Lagoon both provide important habitat to a great diversity of plants and animals – from Florida panthers to manatees,” said Fish and Wildlife and Parks Assistant Secretary Estenoz. “I was delighted to travel with Assistant Administrator Fox and EPA officials to see firsthand how our work together can address issues and challenges in these ecosystems.”

“The opportunity to visit such diverse natural habitats further highlighted the important role these delicate and valuable water resources have in the stability of Florida’s ecosystem,” said EPA Region 4 Administrator Daniel Blackman. “Working with our federal and state partners, it is our responsibility to ensure the health and vitality of these resources continue for future generations.”

The tour kicked off at Big Cypress National Preserve where Assistant Administrator Fox met with National Park Service representatives and learned about the highly diverse ecosystem and the hydrologic and cultural importance of the preserve. Big Cypress National Preserve is a freshwater swamp ecosystem that protects the water quality of the preserve and surrounding region while offering habitat for Florida’s most iconic animals – from alligators to the endangered Florida panther.

From there, Assistant Administrator Fox traveled to the Indian River Lagoon to learn more about the devastating impacts poor water quality is having on sea grasses and, by extension, on the manatees that depend on those very grasses for food.

Indian River Lagoon is part of the National Estuary Program, which is an EPA place-based program to protect and restore the water quality and ecological integrity of estuaries of national significance. This year Indian River Lagoon received $750,000 in annual National Estuary Program funding. EPA is committed to working with state and local partners to find solutions that will improve water quality and restore the ecosystem balance.

As we approach the 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act, EPA is committed to working with Florida to improve water quality and tackle the environmental challenges facing this treasured ecosystem through sound science and partnership.


The Clean Water Act requires EPA to develop criteria for surface water quality that accurately reflect the latest scientific knowledge on the impacts of pollutants on human health and the environment. These criteria are recommendations and state and Tribal governments may implement them as is or use them as guidance in developing their own. Learn more about water quality criteria.


HSI Philadelphia partners with state police on investigation that leads to extensive prison sentence for child predator

Source: US Immigration and Customs Enforcement

LANCASTER, Pa. – Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Philadelphia recently partnered with the Pennsylvania State Police Department on an investigation that landed a Manheim man in prison for up to 158 years. Anthony Fox, 25, received a 79-158-year sentence on June 24 after pleading guilty to 22 sexual abuse charges involving victims younger than 10 years old.

The joint investigation revealed that Fox sexually abused four victims ranging in age from 6-10, and that he recorded the abuse on video and in photographs. Investigators discovered that Fox possessed 2,833 different child pornography files, 539 of which he created. He committed these offenses between July and December 2021.

As a result of the investigation, Fox was charged with four counts of rape of a child; two counts of aggravated indecent assault; one count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child; four counts of unlawful contact with a minor; one count of aggravated indecent assault with a person less than 13 years old; two counts of incest of a minor; one count of possession of child pornography; four counts of corruption of minors; one count of criminal use of a communication facility; one count of indecent exposure; and one count of indecent assault of a person less than 13 years old.

The investigation was a combined HSI Philadelphia and Pennsylvania State Police Department effort with significant assistance from the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office.

“HSI Philadelphia is proud to have partnered with the Pennsylvania State Police and the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office to bring Fox to justice,” said William S. Walker, special agent in charge of HSI Philadelphia. “We hope the severity of this sentence sends a clear message to anyone who might bring harm to children that HSI Philadelphia will work tirelessly with our partners to rid our community of such predators.”

Fox’s defense counsel argued that his defendant was heavily using drugs at the time of the crimes and did not remember committing them; counsel also mentioned the defendant’s own history of abuse and trauma. Defense asked for a 25-75-year sentence.

Assistant District Attorney Amy Muller, who prosecuted the case, refuted this claim, and outlined that the sentencing guidelines regarding the crimes on just one of the victims called for 65-130 years in prison; she asked for a sentence of at least 75-150 years.

“He has been committing crimes for approximately 8 years,” Muller said. “For 8 years in the system, he had a chance to get the help he needed. Now he’s trying to use it as a mitigating factor.” She added “the only way a child will be safe around the defendant is if he remains in prison for the rest of his life.”

Fox spoke shortly when given the opportunity to do so, again mentioning his own personal troubles and the fact that he has accepted responsibility by deciding not to take the case to trial.

Lancaster County Judge Dennis E. Reinaker agreed with the prosecution, stating “I don’t think there’s any worse factual scenario that I’ve seen in 18 years as judge.” He went on to say that taking the case to trial would have been an “exercise in futility” since most of the crimes were recorded on video.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Three-time convicted sex offender sent to prison for possessing sadistic child pornography images following HSI Corpus Christi-led investigation

Source: US Immigration and Customs Enforcement

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – An east Texas man, who has previously been convicted three times of sex offenses related to children, was sentenced to five years in prison June 28 for transporting sadistic child pornography images following an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Corpus Christi and the Aransas County Sheriff’s Office.

Bryan Wesley Fulfer, a 55-year-old resident of Aransas Pass, was sentenced Tuesday in the Southern District of Texas. He was further ordered to serve three years on supervised release following completion of his prison term. During that time, he will have to comply with numerous requirements designed to restrict his access to children and the internet.

Fulfer pleaded guilty to the charges April 5.

At the hearing, the court heard evidence that Fulfer was previously convicted of indecency with a child, possession of child pornography and failure to register as a sex offender. The charges spanned from 1992 to 2014.

The court also saw several virtual images Fulfer possessed which depicted adult men sadistically abusing prepubescent boys.

The investigation began July 28, 2021, when Fulfer’s relatives found his cellphone in a room at their grandmother’s house where he had been residing. On the device, they saw computer-generated images of prepubescent children engaging in sex acts. They notified authorities who, in turn, arrested Fulfer within days. He ultimately admitted to viewing what he called “fake” child pornography online.

Fulfer will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined soon.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Molly K. Smith and Dennis E. Robinson prosecuted the case.

HSI works tirelessly to protect children from sexual abuse or exploitation by predators involved in the production, distribution, and possession of child sexual abuse material. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, HSI arrested 3,776 dangerous child predators and identified and/or rescued 1,177 child victims. Since 2013, HSI has rescued and/or identified more than 8,500 child victims.

For more news and information on HSI’s efforts to keep Southeast Texas communities safe from child predators follow us on Twitter @HSIHouston.

Honduran national sent to prison for smuggling nearly 2 kilograms of cocaine into US following HSI Corpus Christi-led investigation

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.

For more news and information on HSI’s efforts to keep deadly narcotics out of Southeast Texas communities follow us on Twitter @HSIHouston.