An armed drug trafficker found with more than a kilo of fentanyl and a machete, who secured bail from a San Francisco judge, was ordered detained without bail today by a federal judge after being arrested again with massive quantities of the deadly narcotic.
Joshua Lopez appeared in court 14 of San Francisco federal courthouse this afternoon facing four counts of possession with intent to supply.
Government attorneys say that Lopez is an illegal alien from Honduras who has been arrested 14 times since 2020 and has previously cut off GPS ankle monitors while on bail.
“This is a lot of fentanyl that you are accused of having” U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Cisneros told the defendant. “More than I’ve seen in the typical fentanyl dealing case.”
Lopez came to the attention of authorities at 11:00pm on Friday June 16, 2023.
California Highway Patrol officers were concerned to see a white Mercedes CLA with an expired registration tag and tinted front windows being driven in the SOMA district.
They executed a traffic stop on Eighth Street – so close to the CHP San Francisco office that the vehicle actually pulled into the police parking lot. The driver, who turned out to be Lopez, was “extremely sweaty” and provided a false name and date of birth.
Officers’ suspicions were further aroused on spotting a machete in the rear of the car alongside a backpack coated in white powder which a modest amount of further investigation revealed contained more than a kilo of fentanyl, smaller quantities of methamphetamine, crack cocaine and marijuana, plus a digital scale.
Lopez at that point made an unlikely bid for freedom – sprinting away across the Highway Patrol parking lot toward Eighth Street. There followed an unseemly struggle directly in front of the CHP sign during which an officer endeavored to place Lopez in handcuffs while Lopez endeavored to put the officer in a headlock.
Lopez was not cooling his heels in jail for long. Twenty days after his arrest, court records show, he was released on his own recognizance by Superior Court Judge Patrick Thompson.
The District Attorney’s office had filed a ‘motion to detain’ Lopez, citing the amount of fentanyl seized, the evidence of drug trafficking, and the fact he had already been released from custody for another offense at the time this one was committed, but mustered no objection on the day he was released.
Perhaps unsurprisingly Lopez was subsequently arrested by SFPD officers on September 7, 2023 – scarcely two months after being freed – when he was observed making hand-to-hand drug sales near Seventh and Market.
He had almost a kilo of fentanyl and smaller quantities of crack cocaine, methamphetamine and oxycodone in his possession. He also had more than a thousand dollars in cash.
This time exasperated federal prosecutors took no chances. A federal complaint was levied againt Lopez on September 25 and his state charges were dismissed in San Francisco Superior Court on September 26.
The charges preferred by federal authorities encompass not only the criminality in Lopez’ September arrest, but also that of the June arrest that had previously been before San Francisco Superior Court.
“I do believe… that you should be detained under the Bail Reform Act,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Cisneros told Lopez today – pointing out that she didn’t need to reach a decision about his dangerousness as she was already satisfied that he was a flight risk who wouldn’t turn up to court if released.
“It is clear to me by clear and convincing evidence there is a risk you would not appear for court – especially as in the last year you failed to appear in your San Francisco court case.”
“This is a lot of fentanyl that you are accused of having – more than I’ve seen in the typical fentanyl dealing case.”
Lopez will next appear before U.S. District Judge James Donato on November 13 at 10:30am.
The case continues.
This article has been updated to note that the District Attorney’s office filed a ‘motion to detain’ Lopez – citing the amount of fentanyl seized, the evidence of drug trafficking, and the fact he had already been released from custody on another offense at the time this one was committed – but offered no objection on the day he was released.
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