TAMPA — Maria Chapa Lopez, a federal prosecutor known for handling complex drug cases, will be the interim U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Florida.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced her appointment Wednesday, filling the vacancy created after the March resignation of former U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III.
The attorney general had asked for the resignations of 46 top prosecutors nationwide, including Bentley, who were appointed during the presidency of Barack Obama.
W. Stephen Muldrow has since served as acting U.S. attorney for the Middle District, which covers 35 Florida counties stretching from Naples to Jacksonville. With the appointment, Muldrow will resume his role as first assistant U.S. attorney.
Chapa Lopez was one of 17 interim U.S. attorneys named nationwide Wednesday.
President Donald J. Trump will have 120 days to submit nominations for the permanent positions for U.S. Senate confirmation.
Chapa Lopez worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Tampa-based district from 2000 to 2016, focusing on prosecutions of international and domestic drug trafficking organizations, large-scale money laundering, and complex opioid cases.
Since April 2016, she has served as the Department of Justice's deputy attache to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.
Before becoming a federal prosecutor, Chapa Lopez was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.
Her appointment as interim U.S. attorney takes effect Friday.