Dartmouth cocaine smuggler sentenced to six years

Jun 6, 2020

A Dartmouth woman was sentenced to six years in prison yesterday for smuggling cocaine after a U.S. District Court judge found her to have helped distribute more than 44 kg of the drug.

Cristina Lopez, 45, pleaded guilty last October in connection with a scheme to receive cocaine from Puerto Rico through the mail.

According to a press release, on June 5, U.S. District Court Judge Leo Sorokin sentenced Lopez to six years in prison and three years of supervised release.

Lopez was convicted of conspiring to possess five kilograms or more of cocaine with intent to distribute and possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. She has been in custody since her arrest in August 2018.

At sentencing, Judge Sorokin found that Lopez and John Tavares, 31, of Weymouth had distributed more than 44 kilograms of cocaine.

Between March 2017 and August 2018, postal inspectors identified more than 40 suspicious parcels that had been sent through the mail from Puerto Rico to various addresses in Massachusetts, including homes in Quincy, North Dartmouth, Weymouth, and New Bedford.

The suspicious parcels were often sent on the same day from Puerto Rico to two or more different addresses in the state. Agents searched two of the parcels and seized around two kilograms of cocaine hidden in sealed coffee cans.

Through surveillance, agents found that Lopez and Tavares were receiving the majority of the parcels after flying regularly from Massachusetts to Puerto Rico for trips lasting only 30 to 72 hours. Packages suspected of containing cocaine were typically sent to Massachusetts within one to three days after their return.

Law enforcement officials searched three different residences in Dartmouth, Weymouth, and Boston on August 18, 2018. During those searches, more than three kilograms of cocaine worth more than $100,000, two firearms and various drug paraphernalia were seized.

Tavares pleaded guilty to conspiring to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. He is scheduled to be sentenced before Judge Sorokin on June 22.

The Dartmouth Police Department assisted with the investigation along with police departments in Quincy, Weymouth, Braintree, and Boston.

Multiple local and federal law enforcement and government officials — including Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn and Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson  announced the sentencing on June 5. 

Assistant U.S. Attorneys James E. Arnold and Nadine Pellegrini of U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling’s Narcotics and Money Laundering Unit prosecuted the case.