MCALLEN, Texas — The sentencing of a Gulf Cartel commander has been postponed after a federal judge refused to hand down a slap on the wrist. He asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Probation Office to do more research before sentencing can be handed down.
Wearing a white t-shirt and blue jeans Benicio “Comandante Veneno” Lopez, a U.S. citizen, sat in federal court staring at a wall trying not to look at his wife, mother, and cousin who sat silently in the courtroom.
While Lopez has a pending murder charge in Hidalgo County and multiple charges in Starr County related to the aggravated kidnapping and torturing of a man in the U.S., the charges levied against him in federal court deal with him being a felon in possession of a shotgun.
“He has some horrible cases in state court, some very serious violations,” said Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa to the court officials during the hearing. “I want you to cross reference the weapons in the case to see if there are any additional enhancements.”
Lopez had been a close associate of the late Gulf Cartel regional boss Samuel “Metro 3” Flores. After Flores’ death Lopez quickly climbed the ranks of the criminal organization until he ended up gaining a command position in the area just south of Starr County. While his affiliation appears to be with the Gulf Cartel, Lopez is shown in various court documents made available to Breitbart Texas as claiming to be from “Los Zetas”
Lopez is believed to have one of the multiple Gulf Cartel members who took part in a home invasion in 2010 in the border city of San Juan. That home invasion resulted in the shooting death of Roberto Hinojosa, information released to Breitbart Texas by the U.S. Marshals Service revealed. After the murder, Lopez is believed to have moved back to Mexico but continued to cross into the U.S. under the radar of law enforcement. After his capture, a San Juan Municipal judge set Lopez’s bond at $1.3 million. The Gulf Cartel commander managed to bond out and returned to the border city of Roma Texas.
In September 2014, Roma Police and investigators with the Starr County District Attorney’s Office arrested Lopez in connection with the kidnapping and torture of a local man over a minor dispute. Lopez openly boasted about being Comandante Veneno of Los Zetas as he tied and repeatedly pistol whipped the local man over a Xanax pill, court documents that Breitbart Texas was granted access to revealed.
As part of the investigation, authorities also tied him to the arson of a local business where he allegedly stole hundreds of pairs of shoes. He has remained in custody since his arrest. The Starr County DA’s Office had him in custody for close to 80 days before turning him over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution on the federal weapons charge. Once Lopez is sentenced in federal court, the Starr County DA’s Office is preparing to prosecute him in state court for multiple charges related, not only to the kidnapping, but also to a series of crimes in that border county, officials said to Breitbart Texas.
The shotgun in question in the federal charges was found by San Juan Police Detectives and the U.S. Marshal Service when they raided Lopez’s apartment in the ritzy border neighborhood of Cimarron in Mission, Texas, in June 2013, court records obtained by Breitbart Texas revealed.
While searching the apartment authorities found a 12 gauge shotgun, a semiautomatic pistol and marijuana. Authorities found the handgun in Lopez’s truck. The shotgun, which is the only federal charge against Lopez, had been purchased legally in 2009 from a McAllen gun store. While the shotgun was legally purchased, Lopez lost his right to own or posses weapons in April, 2013, when he received a felony convition for possession of marijuana by the 430th State District Court.
Lopez is expected back in federal court in a few weeks for his sentencing as to the federal charges. He still has to face trial for the murder, kidnapping, arson and theft charges in both Starr County and Hidalgo County.