News Release
January 07, 2010
Contact: Special Agent Ramona Sanchez
Number: 602-664-5725

Man Sentenced for Smuggling Marijuana
Near the Mexico Border

JAN 07 -- PHOENIX - Mario Verdugo-Torres, 24, a Mexican citizen from Tuxtla, Chiapas, Mexico, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow on January 4, 2010, to 60 months in Federal prison followed by four years of supervised release.  Verdugo-Torres pled guilty on October 21, 2009 to Possession with the Intent to Distribute 100 Kilograms or More of Marijuana.

On August 15, 2009, Border Patrol agents were patrolling along the United States/Mexico International border fence in Yuma County, Arizona, and observed a pick-up truck. As agents neared the truck, the driver, drove off road.  Agents followed the pickup truck for approximately five miles and saw bundles of what appeared to be marijuana fall out of the back.  When the truck stopped, the driver and the passenger, Verdugo-Torres, got out of the truck, but got back in as agents approached.  After additional starts and stops, backing into a Border Patrol vehicle, and an attempt to jump over the United States/Mexico International border fence, agents were able to detain Verdugo-Torres and the driver.  Both subjects were turned over to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents.  Agents recovered 29 bundles of marijuana which weighed 293.6 kilograms, and cellular telephones with two-way radio capability.  Agents believe that the subjects were using the telephones to contact people in Mexico who were acting as lookouts for Border Patrol vehicles.       

A co-defendant, Cortez-Avalos, is awaiting trial. 

The investigation in this case was conducted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.  The prosecution is being handled by James Morse Jr., Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, Phoenix.

# # #