Two down, one to go
Two men caught with almost nine pounds of methamphetamine on I-90 will be spending the next 10 years in federal prison and then be turned over to the Bureau of Immigration.
Luis Felipe Lopez-Rojas and Angel Guzman-Banderos appeared before federal Magistrate Susan B. Waters in Billings on Feb. 6 and received identical sentences —10 years in prison followed by five years of supervised released. Upon completion of the sentence, both men will be returned to the custody of the Bureau of Immigration, according to court documents.
The third defendant in the case, Alfonso Banderas-Martinez (also known as Alfonso Martinez-Solorio), will be sentenced in March.
Lopez-Rojas and Banderas-Martinez, both 23, each pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Both men had been initially charged with two counts of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and two counts of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.
Guzman-Banderos, 28, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. He was initially charged with three counts of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, two counts of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, one count of illegal re-entry and one count of fraud and misuse of visas, permits and other documents.
According to court documents, the three were stopped by Stillwater County Sheriff’s Deputy Randy Smith on April 26 for speeding on I-90 near mile marker 400. All three acted nervous and produced identification that showed one was from California, one was from Michigan and one was from Mexico. None of the men knew the name of the Billings resident who had rented the vehicle they were driving.
When asked if there was anything illegal in the vehicle, two said no and one said yes. Smith and his K-9 partner, Figo, searched the exterior of the vehicle. Figo alerted on the passenger side rear window, according to court documents.
All three suspects were taken to the sheriff’s office and the vehicle was impounded. In a search conducted after a warrant was obtained, agents found a 28-quart cooler in the rear cargo area that had “unusual” bulges in the liner, according to court documents.
The liner was removed and agents discovered the cooler’s insulation had been cut away and in its place were seven duct tape-wrapped packages, according to court documents.
Inside each duct tape-wrapped package was a heat-sealed bag containing methamphetamine.
The total weight of the seven packages, including the packing material, was 4,906.20 grams, according to court documents.
The methamphetamine was sent to the Drug Enforcement Agency lab for testing and the total amount of pure methamphetamine was measured at 3,928.4 grams – which is nearly nine pounds, according to court documents.
All three were taken to the Yellowstone County Detention Facility and had their fingerprints sent to the Homeland Security Investigations Deportation and Removal Unit.
There it was discovered that Guzman-Banderos had previously been deported from the United States for a drug crime, according to court documents.