3 plead guilty to operating drug-trafficking ring

(Photo: WPRI/ Andy Paskowski)
(Photo: WPRI/ Andy Paskowski)

BOSTON (WPRI) — Two men and a woman pleaded guilty this week to operating a drug-trafficking ring in Southeastern Massachusetts, U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz announced Friday.

Prosecutors said Luis Lopez imported 50 to 100 kilograms of cocaine from Puerto Rico to Massachusetts between 2014 and 2016.

The drugs were then distributed in both New Bedford and Fall River with co-conspirators Chindy Diaz and Israel Santiago, according to Ortiz.

Upon executing a search warrant at a stash house in June, police said Lopez admitted that the drugs seized belonged to him. Authorities also learned that Lopez laundered drug proceeds through Hillside Auto, a used car business he purchased in Fall River in the name of a relative.

Lopez, 42, of Tiverton and Fall River, pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges including conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, conspiracy to distribute heroin and fentanyl, possession of fentanyl and acetylentanyl with the intent to distribute, and laundering of monetary instruments.

If the court accepts Lopez’s plea agreement, he will be sentenced to 15 years in prison and five years of supervised release, prosecutors said. He will also be ordered to pay $2 million and forfeit numerous properties and vehicles.

Diaz, 38, of New Bedford, and Santiago, 39, of Fall River, both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess cocaine. Prosecutors said Diaz helped Lopez obtain packages of cocaine from Puerto Rico.

According to prosecutors, the packages of cocaine were shipped to Diaz then she would deliver it to Lopez in Fall River. Prosecutors said she also aided in coordinating the shipment of the proceeds back to Puerto Rico.

A charge of conspiracy to distribute cocaine carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years to life of supervised release, and a fine of up to $1 million.