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California man, Buffalo woman sentenced for their roles in cross-country drug conspiracy

STAFF REPORTS


BUFFALO -- U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Steven Bennett, 47 of Los Angeles, California, who was convicted of conspiracy to possess 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, was sentenced to 180 months in prison by Senior U.S. District William M. Skretny. In addition, co-defendant Jessica Lopez, 37, of Buffalo, NY, was sentenced to six months home detention for her conviction of structuring transactions to evade money reporting requirements. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel L. Violanti, who is handling the case, stated that between July 2012, and January 18, 2013, the defendant conspired with others to distribute over 50 grams of methamphetamine and over 500 grams of cocaine. Bennett had the illegal narcotics shipped from California to Buffalo. The drugs would then be distributed in the Buffalo area. During that time frame, the Drug Enforcement Agency utilized and eavesdropping warrant to intercept phone calls between Bennett and his co-conspirators.

One of those co-conspirators was Jessica Lopez. Between July 2012 and October 2012, the defendant was working as a teller at Bank of America. Lopez knowingly structured cash deposits from drug proceeds in an attempt to avoid the bank’s transaction reporting requirements for cash deposits exceeding $10,000.

The sentencings are the result of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Agency, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge James J. Hunt, New York Field Division, and  the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of James D. Robnett, Special Agent in Charge, New York Field Office.