San Antonio gang member sentenced for drug, firearms violations

Arnoldo Lopez of Duffle Bag Mafia sentenced to 40 years in prison

By Troy Blevins
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SAN ANTONIO - A 25-year-old member of the Duffle Bag Mafia in San Antonio was sentenced Wednesday to 40 years in federal prison for various drug and firearms offenses, authorities say.

A U.S. District Judge sentenced Arnoldo Lopez -- also known as "Looney" -- to 35 years in prison for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute "crack" cocaine plus five additional years imprisonment for possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime.

In a separate but related case, U.S. attorneys said Lopez was sentenced to five years in prison on six separate charges of making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm. The judge ordered the prison terms assessed for each of the false statement charges to run concurrent with the drug and firearm prison terms.

Lopez pleaded guilty on Sept. 5, 2013 to the above-mentioned charges, authorities said.

According to court records, on Oct. 4, 2012, Lopez and others were apprehended by the San Antonio Police Department Gang Unit while in possession of distributable quantities of cocaine as well as four firearms, including one assault rifle, two shotguns and a semi-automatic pistol.

Prior to his arrest, Homeland Security Investigations agents were investigating a firearms straw purchasing operation where Lopez directed other individuals to purchase dozens of firearms under false pretenses, U.S. attorneys said. The weapons purchased included AK-47 and AR-15-type assault rifles, which were destined for the Los Zetas Cartel.

"This investigation is an outstanding example of where cooperative efforts of (the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), HSI and the San Antonio Police Department can lead," said ATF special agent in charge Robert Elder. "Anytime we get a criminal of this magnitude off the streets is a good day for our citizens."

"Today's sentencing of Arnoldo Lopez sends a clear message that those who engage in and/or facilitate the straw purchasing and smuggling of weaponry, and related items, will face serious consequences," said HSI special agent in charge Janice Ayala. "HSI, ATF and our law enforcement partners are dedicated to making communities safer by bringing violent criminals to justice and preventing or seizing firearms before they fall into the hands of transnational criminal organizations who pose a threat to public safety both here and abroad."

On Feb. 26, Lopez' co-defendant, 31-year-old Michael Gutierrez, was sentenced to more than 20 years in federal prison for his role in the drug distribution scheme. U.S. attorneys said two others in the drug distribution scheme are awaiting sentencing.

Six other people in the firearms straw purchasing scheme have been sentenced to terms ranging from three years probation to more than 4 years in federal prison, authorities said.

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