BROWNSVILLE Jaime Lopez, 54, of Rio Grande City has been sentenced to 360 months in federal prison for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and possession with intent to distribute 75.76 kilograms of cocaine, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. The sentencing was handed down yesterday in federal court in Brownsville.

Lopez pleaded guilty on April 5, 2011, at which time the government's evidence indicated that in May 2010, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents conducted an undercover operation to infiltrate a cocaine smuggling ring operating out of the Alamo/McAllen, Texas, area. As a result, agents met with Lopez and his associates - Alvaro Gomez-Arreola, 38, and Eluid Reymundo Pequeno, 41, both of Reynosa, Mexico; Ovidio Serrato-Salinas, 43, of Brownsville; and Abelardo Robledo, 34, of Matamoros, Mexico - in the ensuing months in Brownsville and Alamo to discuss shipments of cocaine to the Atlanta, Ga., area.

On Aug. 6, 2010, the conspirators delivered a Monte Carlo with a hidden compartment containing 23 kilograms of cocaine which they requested be delivered to Atlanta. Agents unloaded the cocaine and delivered it as requested in Atlanta where another individual was arrested and charged.

On Aug. 19, 2010, DEA agents, still operating in an undercover capacity, negotiated the transportation of an 80 kilogram load of cocaine to Atlanta again. Ultimately, 76 kilograms were delivered by Lopez and the others on Aug. 23 in Alamo. Two days later, agents seized $595,000 in drug proceeds given to the undercover agent.

According to court records, the cocaine was moved from Mexico to different parts of the U.S. The cocaine was sent from Mexico to Lopez in Alamo, Texas, who would then arrange transportation to different U.S. cities including Houston and Atlanta after storing the cocaine in Alamo. Lopez used two ranches to store cocaine and the organization made drug trips to Houston and returned with drug proceeds for shipment to Mexico. Records indicate they smuggled about $1.6 million weekly into Mexico in drug proceeds.

Gomez-Arreola, Pequeno, Serrato-Salinas and Robledo have all entered guilty pleas before U.S. District Judge Hilda on the same charges. Their sentencings are scheduled for Nov. 3, 2011., at which time they face a minimum of 10 years imprisonment to a maximum of life.

The case was investigated by the DEA and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Oscar Ponce.