Calif. man convicted in drug case
Trucker was stopped in Howard
By Laura McCandlish
Originally published July 14, 2007
A federal jury in Baltimore convicted a Los Angeles trucker yesterday of conspiracy to distribute 23 kilograms of cocaine that were in the tractor-trailer he was driving in December at an Interstate 95 rest stop in Howard County.
The case is considered the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's largest seizure in Maryland of a drug shipment that had been monitored by agents. The drugs were originally loaded in California, detected in North Carolina and - with cooperation from the defendant -confiscated in Maryland, according to the office of U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.
Alejandro Arango-Lopez, 39, was found guilty of conspiracy to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine. Arango-Lopez and four other defendants still awaiting trial are all being held in federal custody, said Marcia Murphy, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore.
According to court documents, a state trooper near Asheville, N.C., stopped Arango-Lopez on Dec. 18, 2006, for speeding.
The trooper found a suitcase filled with cocaine stashed among flat-screen televisions, authorities said.
To reduce his charges, Arango-Lopez then fully cooperated with DEA agents, who learned that the defendant and another man were to deliver the cocaine to a truck stop at Exit 35 off Interstate 95 in Howard County.
Investigators said in court documents that the two men were to be paid $10,000 each for transporting the drugs and transferring the cargo to the other men charged in the case.
On Dec. 19, federal agents monitored Arango-Lopez's tractor-trailer until it reached the I-95 truck stop in Maryland, where all the arrests took place.
Though Arango-Lopez initially cooperated with authorities, he then chose not to testify or plead guilty, forcing the weeklong federal trial, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
Arango-Lopez could receive a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years, Murphy said. Chief U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg is scheduled to sentence Arango-Lopez on Oct. 19.
Court dates for Jesus Luis Sanchez-Cuevas, 31, of Reidsville, N.C., who was also in the truck at the Maryland truck stop, and the other defendants - Julio Grano, 30, of Reidsville, N.C.; Juan Gonzalez, 29, of Guadalajara, Mexico; and Christopher Devan Towns, 42, of Raleigh, N.C. - have not been set.
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