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20 pounds of meth moved through Mohave County

Sentence for meth trafficking ‘lenient’

KINGMAN – Mohave County Judge Billy Sipe has imposed 7.5-year prison sentences after reluctantly approving drug case plea agreements that he questioned for its “leniency.” The punishment was stipulated in plea deals convicting two Indiana men of transporting dangerous drugs for sale.

Cristian Lopez, 24, was the driver of a vehicle stopped for a traffic violation on Interstate 15 just south of the Utah border in January. Twenty pounds of methamphetamine was confiscated, separately packaged in 20 one-pound bags.

“That’s a substantial amount of meth,” Judge Sipe told attorneys, asking them to justify the sentencing limitation of 7.5 years prison. “Twenty pounds of meth is a lot, even if he’s just moving this through Mohave County to someplace else.”

Defense attorney Nathan Best said mitigating factors for the court to consider are Lopez’ youth, that he has no previous criminal history whatsoever and that he was less culpable than the co-defendant.

“He says that he was kind of along for the ride,” Best said of Lopez. “He was in the role of a mule in this case.”

Judge Sipe said he decided to accept the plea deal, knowing he’d be asked to recuse himself and the same agreement would get approved by another judge. Sipe sentenced Lopez on Sept. 11.

The passenger in the vehicle from which the meth was seized, Joel Padilla, 24, entered an identical plea agreement. Judge Sipe imposed the same 7.5-year prison term during Padilla’s Sept. 12 sentencing hearing.