Honduran sent to prison after claims cartel forced him to transport drugs | USAO-SDTX

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A 28-year-old non-U.S. citizen has been sentenced to federal prison following his conviction for possession with intent to distribute nearly two kilograms of cocaine, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

The jury deliberated for less than five hours following a two-day trial before convicting Edwin Lopez-Chavez March 25 on one count of possession with the intent to distribute cocaine. 

Today, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ordered Lopez to serve 60 months in federal prison. Not a U.S. citizen, he is expected to face removal proceedings following his sentence. At the hearing, the court heard additional testimony that detailed how Lopez had received money in his jail commissary account from a person related to alien smuggling. Lopez claimed he was unfortunate to get involved with the wrong people as he was attempting to illegally enter the United States.

At trial, the jury heard that Lopez 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. 

There, authorities discovered three non-U.S. citizens inside the trunk of the vehicle. Lopez, admitted he was a citizen and national of Honduras who was illegally present in the United States. 

Law enforcement ultimately found four bundles of cocaine taped to his ankles and inside his waist band. Lopez admitted the bundles contained narcotics.

However, during trial, he attempted to convince the jury that he transported the cocaine because some cartel members had threatened him. These people were allegedly involved in moving Lopez and other illegal aliens north.

The jury heard that Lopez could have used his cell phone to contact law enforcement at any time or at the checkpoint explain he had been forced to transport narcotics. Additional evidence showed that he had lied to authorities during an interview by saying that his phone had no service in the United States. A forensic report of his phone revealed otherwise. 

The jury ultimately did not believe his claims and found Lopez guilty as charged.

Lopez will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Drug Enforcement Administration and Border Patrol. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Amanda L. Gould and Liesel Roscher prosecuted the case.

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