Jackson, TN – Rolando Lopez, 58, has been sentenced to life imprisonment on federal charges of conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of actual methamphetamine. U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant announced the sentence today.
This is the latest sentencing in a case involving multiple defendants including Saul Vega Flores, Virginia Torres, Ronald Lynn Parham, Daniel Ranger, Kennett Garrett, Tammy Ranger, Marcus Jones, and Xavier Demetrius James on charges of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
According to information presented in court, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) began an investigation into Rolando Lopez and his drug trafficking organization in March of 2017. Agents discovered that Lopez and other co-conspirators were trafficking in methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana and other illegal substances from Mexico to Tennessee. Investigators used “wiretaps” along with other surveillance, confidential sources, traffic stops, and search warrants to investigate this organization.
In April 2017, agents received information from a confidential informant regarding a home in Davidson County, Tennessee, where Lopez and his brother were conducting drug related activity. A search warrant was executed at the residence where over $500,000 in cash, a money counter, and a vacuum sealer were recovered. In November 2017, investigators through wiretap interceptions learned that Lopez arranged for a shipment of 20 kilograms of methamphetamine ice to be picked up by a co-conspirator in Atlanta, Georgia to be driven back to Tennessee. Investigators eventually seized the 20 kilograms of methamphetamine from this co-conspirator. In December 2017, investigators through wiretap interceptions and information received from confidential informants learned that Lopez was arranging a shipment of methamphetamine from Mexico to Tennessee.
The shipment was being transported by other co-conspirators in a 2004 Lincoln Navigator to the residence of a co-conspirator in the Western District of Tennessee, where the shipment was to be converted to powder form for distribution. Lopez directed other co-conspirators transporting the liquid methamphetamine to Tennessee to meet at the Days Inn, in West Memphis, Arkansas. Once the defendants began to transport the liquid methamphetamine into the Western District of Tennessee, investigators arranged for the Tennessee Highway Patrol to stop the Lincoln Navigator on Highway 51, in Obion County, Tennessee. During the search of the vehicle, agents discovered a large quantity of methamphetamine located in a hidden compartment. A DEA forensic laboratory examination revealed that the defendant and other co-conspirators were transporting 44.85 kilograms of 98% pure ice.
Lopez used other co-conspirators’ property located in the Western District of Tennessee to convert the liquid methamphetamine into a powdery substance. Lopez was held responsible for distributing 2,660,000 kilograms (converted drug weight) of methamphetamine within Tennessee. Lopez was obtaining the methamphetamine from a source in Mexico, where it was smuggled into the Western District. The United States argued that this was the largest drug trafficking organization known to be handled within the Western District.
U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant said: “Drug trafficking offenses are at the root of some of the gravest problems facing our country. The ‘fruit’ of the drug plague is everywhere; it fills our jails, our courts, our streets, and our nurseries. Accordingly, given that drug dealers themselves sentence many individuals to a lifetime of addiction and dependency, a life sentence for repeatedly dealing large quantities of drugs is a just and proper punishment in this case.”
“The Drug Enforcement Administration and our law enforcement partners remain committed to targeting interstate methamphetamine traffickers contributing to the nation’s drug crisis,” said Brett R. Pritts, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s Nashville District Office. “I commend our law enforcement partners and the prosecutors for their extraordinary efforts in this case.”
On July 9, 2019, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Thomas Anderson sentenced Lopez to life in federal prison followed by 5 years supervised release.
This case was investigated by the Nashville, Jackson, Atlanta DEA offices, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, 23rd Judicial Drug Task Force, Metro Nashville Police Department, Perry County Sheriff’s Office, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Lawrenceburg Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Jackson Police Department, Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, Madison County Sheriff’s Office, and Obion County Sheriff’s Office.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry Kitchen prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.