WILMINGTON, N.C. (WNCN) — A man has been convicted of stealing more than $250,000 worth of fentanyl from a Fayetteville stash house, federal prosecutors say.

The U.S. Department of Justice said Friday that a jury convicted 34-year-old Hector Perez Valenzuela earlier this week on charges of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute fentanyl, and possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and aiding and abetting. 

He faces up to 40 years in prison when he is sentenced.

Prosecutors say an investigation into a fentanyl trafficking ring with ties to the Sinaloa cartel started in 2019.

They say the leaders of the drug ring were based on the west coast, but kept apartments in Fayetteville to serve as hubs for distributing the substance across the country.

Prosecutors alleged Valenzuela and two other men — John Ellington and Kittisack Sam Vorana — decided in November 2019 to steal large quantities of drugs belonging to the trafficking organization, with plans to make it look like a burglary, then sell the drugs and split the profits.

They say Valenzuela and Vorana broke into the apartment and stole seven kilograms of fentanyl and approximately 3,000 fentanyl pills on Nov. 7, 2019, before driving back to the west coast in a rented Dodge Caravan.

They were stopped for speeding in Missouri the following morning and the drugs were found in the van after they consented to a search. Officers say the men said they were planning to sell the drugs in the Portland, Oregon, area.

Vorana and Ellingson have pleaded guilty to fentanyl conspiracy charges and are awaiting sentencing.