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Alejandro Lopez, 50, a citizen of Mexico, pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges of possessing methamphetamine with intent to distribute, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced in a news release.

According to court documents, Lopez was pulled over for a traffic violation while driving northbound on Highway 99 in Merced County. During the stop, Highway Patrol officers discovered about 32 pounds of methamphetamine in a spare tire of the vehicle that Lopez was driving.

Will be Sentenced in January

Lopez faces a a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, up to a maximum penalty of life behind bars, and a $10 million fine. He is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dale Drozd in January.

Lopez’ actual sentence will be set by the judge “after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables,” Scott’s statement said.

This case was jointly investigated by the California Highway Patrol and Department of Homeland Security.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case, the Justice Department said.

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