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Drug trafficking defendants are sentenced

POCATELLO, Idaho - Three people were sentenced this week in a drug investigation known as Operation Walkabout.

An Idaho Falls man will spend the next 19 years and seven months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute over 50 grams of methamphetamine.

Ricardo Garcia Lopez, 36, appeared before Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill in Pocatello on Wednesday. He was one of three men sentenced this week for his part in an eastern Idaho drug trafficking organization uprooted in a nine month federal investigation called Operation Walkabout. He pleaded guilty to the charge Dec. 19, 2012.

Lopez was also ordered to forfeit a firearm and pay a $1,000 fine. He will also face five years of supervised release following his prison term.

On Monday, 23-year-old Alberto Abarca of Idaho Falls, was sentenced to 10 years and 10 months in prison followed by five years of supervised relief for possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine. He pleaded guilty to the charge Jan. 23.

Ana Rosa Valdez-Ceja, 26, of Shelley, was sentenced Tuesday to two years probation for money laundering. She pleaded guilty to the charge Jan. 23.

According to plea agreements, several people centered around co-defendant and Mexican national Samuel Nevarez-Ayon entered into a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in the Idaho Falls area. Others laundered drug-sale proceeds by making false applications to local banks.

The U.S. Attorneys Office said the defendants obtained over $500,000 from the methamphetamine distribution operation.

Nevarez-Ayon, Juan Ortiz, Jr., Everado Tapia-Torres Jr, Nicholas Levi Olsen and Isidoro David Herrera, pleaded guilty to related charges and are awaiting sentencing later this month. Another defendant, Guadalupe Meraz, is a fugitive.

Operation Walkabout included multiple agencies led by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. The task force included the Idaho State Police, Bonneville, Madison, Fremont, and Bingham County sheriff's offices, Idaho Falls and Rexburg police, the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, IRS-Criminal Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

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