Jury Convicts 22-Year-Old Cleveland, Texas, Resident of Trafficking Marijuana
APR 8 -- (LAREDO, Texas) - After two days of trial and approximately two hours of deliberation, a federal jury has convicted Ashley Nicole Masterson, 22, of Cleveland, Texas, of conspiring to possess and possessing with intent to distribute less than 50 kilograms of marijuana, Special Agent in Charge Zorn B. Yankovich and United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.
The jury returned its verdict convicting Masterson of all counts on Wednesday, April 7, 2010. United States District Court Judge George P. Kazen, who presided over the trial, released Masterson on bond pending a sentencing hearing to be set following the completion of a presentence investigative report.
During trial, the jury heard testimony from United States Border Patrol (BP) agents and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents who described the events of Nov. 25, 2009. On that date, at the BP checkpoint located approximately 29 miles north of Laredo, Texas, 26 bundles of marijuana weighing 47.5 kilograms were discovered hidden in the gas tank of a 1997 GMC pickup truck driven by Masterson. The discovery was made after a canine trained to detect the odor of narcotics alerted to that area of the truck. The marijuana has an approximate wholesale value in excess of $50,000.
At the time of her arrest, Masterson gave statements to BP agents that she had come to Laredo to visit her mother-in-law and to test drive a truck. But, upon further questioning, she was not able to identify who her mother-in-law was, what her phone number was or where she lived. Agents also discovered a bus ticket from Houston to Laredo which showed that she did not “test-drive” the truck down from Laredo. Finally, a red plastic gas can was found full of gas in the bed of the truck. Masterson explained that she had it with her just in case she ran out of gas. Masterson testified at trial that the government agents misunderstood her statements at the time of her arrest and she attempted to provide alternative explanations for all evidence in dispute. Masterson’s jail house roommates testified against her, explaining that Masterson told them that the true purpose of her visit was to pick up a load of marijuana.
At sentencing, Masterson faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each of her two counts of conviction. Assistant U.S. Attorney D.J. Young prosecuted the case.