FRESNO, CA -- United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, DEA Special Agent in Charge Anthony D. Williams, ICE-HSI Special Agent Charge Mark Wollman, and ATF Special Agent in Charge Stephen C. Herkins announced today that the last of five defendants charged following a drug bust at a Mexican restaurant in Fowler has pleaded guilty today. Javier Lopez-Estrada, aka Jose Esquivel-Torres, 28, of Oakdale, pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute and to possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine.
Mario Penaloza, 22, of Orange Cove; Mario Martinez-Botello, 31, of Albuquerque, N.M.; Jesus Bucio-Mendoza, aka Miguel Mendoza Alvarez, 26, of Fresno; and Armando Toledo, aka Ernesto Gonzalez-Garcia, 26, of San Fernando; previously entered guilty pleas to federal drug charges and are scheduled for sentencing before United States District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill in May and April.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office with assistance from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Assistant United States Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.
In pleading guilty, the defendants admitted their involvement in a drug deal in Fowler that led to the seizure of 7.5 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, one assault weapon, two semi-automatic handguns, and 32 rounds of ammunition. Court documents filed in the case indicate that the defendants delivered five pounds of crystal methamphetamine to undercover agents following negotiations by Penaloza. Agents then seized another 2.5 pounds of the drug, along with the assault weapon and a firearm without serial numbers, from Penaloza’s Orange Cove residence. Following the seizure, Penaloza indicated the drug had been smuggled into the United States from Mexico.
Sentencing is scheduled for June 3, 2011 before Judge O’Neill. Penaloza, Lopez-Estrada, and Bucio-Mendoza Armando face a minimum prison sentence of 10 years and a maximum prison sentence of life, and a $10 million fine. Toledo faces a mandatory prison sentence of five years and a maximum fine of $250,000. Martinez-Botello faces a maximum prison sentence of four years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.