FRESNO, CA — United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Anthony D. Williams, and Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims announced today that Mario Penaloza, 22, formerly of Orange Cove, was sentenced to 12 years and three months in prison for conspiring to distribute methamphetamine in Fowler. Penaloza also faces deportation to Mexico upon completion of his prison term.
According to his plea agreement, Penaloza admitted that he had set up a drug deal that led to the arrests of Javier Lopez-Estrada, Mario Martinez-Botello, Jesus Bucio-Mendoza, and Armando Toledo, who were also charged federally, and the seizure of 4.5 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, one assault weapon, two semi-automatic handguns, and 32 rounds of ammunition. Court documents filed in the case indicate that agents seized another 2.5 pounds of methamphetamine from Penaloza’s Orange Cove residence during the execution of a follow-up search warrant. Following his arrest, Penaloza indicated the drug had been smuggled into the United States from Mexico.
The remaining defendants, Javier Lopez-Estrada, 27, of Michoacán, Mexico; Mario Martinez-Botello, 31, formerly of Albuquerque, N.M.; Jesus Bucio-Mendoza, aka Miguel Mendoza Alvarez, 26, formerly of Fresno; and Armando Toledo, aka Ernesto Gonzalez-Garcia, 26, formerly of San Fernando, entered guilty pleas to federal drug charges and are scheduled for sentencing before U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill in May and June.
This case is the product of an investigation by the DEA and the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office with assistance from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Assistant United States Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.