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Three Springdale, Arkansas, Residents Sentenced to Total of 17 Years in Federal Prison for Drug Offenses

OCT 13 (FAYETTEVILLE, Ark.) – Cinthia Banegas-Ruiz, 23, was sentenced to serve 46 months in federal prison today for Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine, announced Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Assistant Special Agent in Charge Matthew Barden and Kenneth Elser, United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas.

According to court documents, in January of 2015, the DEA, in conjunction with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and local law enforcement agencies, began investigating a drug trafficking organization operating out of the Springdale and Rogers areas of Arkansas.

In November 2015, law enforcement received information that Jose Lepe, a co-defendant of Banegas-Ruiz, would be traveling to Texas to pick up methamphetamine and bring it back to the Western District of Arkansas where it would be distributed.  Agents conducted surveillance of the vehicle as the vehicle travelled to the Dallas, Texas area and then returned to the Western District of Arkansas. Law enforcement officers stopped the vehicle as it traveled in the Western District of Arkansas.  Lepe was identified as the driver of the vehicle and Banegas-Ruiz was seated in the backseat next to her two-year-old daughter. Upon a search of the vehicle, a Ziploc bag containing 106 grams of methamphetamine was located between the backseat and a speaker box, in an area only accessible by folding down the backseat in the area where Banagas-Ruiz and her child were seated.

Banagas-Ruiz provided a recorded statement to police.  She admitted that she went to Dallas thinking that the purpose of the trip was to drop of money owed for drugs and she agreed that bringing her daughter along made them look less suspicious to law enforcement. An analysis of Banegas-Ruiz’s text messages revealed further communications relating to the distribution of methamphetamine. 

A federal Grand Jury issued an Indictment for Banegas-Ruiz, Lepe, and Rigoberto Benavidez in January 2016. Banegas-Ruiz pleaded guilty in May 2016.

 Benavidez and Lepe were both sentenced after pleading guilty to charges related to the distribution of methamphetamine. In July 2016, Benavidez, 26, was sentenced to 100 months imprisonment and, in August 2016, Lepe, 25, was sentenced to 63 months imprisonment.

“Methamphetamine brings chaos into the lives of those who are addicted to or live around it,” stated Barden. “Cinthia Banegas-Ruiz’ sentencing should be a warning to anyone thinking of polluting our communities with this addictive substance, especially those who endanger children in the process.  DEA, along with our law enforcement partners are committed to investigating anybody that participates in the distribution of methamphetamine and other illegal and dangerous narcotics.”

This case was investigated by the DEA, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Rogers Police Department, Springdale Police Department, and Arkansas State Police. 

Parents and children are encouraged to educate themselves about the dangers of drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.JustThinkTwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov

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