Mexican National Sentenced to Five Years
for Marijuana Trafficking Conviction
Conviction Stems from July 2011 Seizure of 1163Pounds of Marijuana
Concealed in Commercial Vehicle and Bound for New York
ALBUQUERQUE – Jesus Agustin Gastelum-Carrasco, 29, a Mexican national from Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, who is illegally in the United States, was sentenced today in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., for his marijuana trafficking conviction. Gastelum-Carrasco was sentenced to five years in federal prison. He will be deported after he completes his term of incarceration.
Gastelum-Carrasco is one of four defendants convicted based on an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) that ensued after a New Mexico Department of Public Safety Motor Transportation Division officer found 527 kilograms (1163 pounds) of marijuana concealed in a commercial vehicle during a routine inspection at a checkpoint on Interstate 10 in Hidalgo County, N.M., on July 27, 2011.
According to court filings, the marijuana was found in a vehicle driven by Carl Francis Carter, 60, of Deptford, N.J. The investigation revealed that Gastelum-Carrasco helped load the marijuana bundles into Carter’s vehicle at a location near Tucson, Ariz., on July 26, 2011, with the understanding that Carter would be delivering the marijuana to the East Coast.
The investigation also revealed that Carter had been in communication with Gary Harris, 50, of Carle Place, N.Y., on the night of his arrest (July 27, 2011), and that Eric Harris, 46, of Albans, N.Y., had attempted to contact Carter the morning after his arrest. Court filings reflect that Gary Harris and Eric Harris traveled from New York to Phoenix, Ariz., on July 17, 2011, to facilitate the purchase of the marijuana and arrange its transport from Tucson, Ariz., to New York. Eric Harris and Gary Harris traveled back to New York on July 27, 2011, following Carter’s arrest.
Gastelum-Carrasco was arrested in Arizona on May 24, 2013, and transferred to New Mexico for prosecution on June 18, 2013. On Sept. 12, 201, he pled guilty to conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute. In entering his guilty plea, he admitted helping load the marijuana into Carter’s vehicle on July 26, 2011. He also acknowledged learning that Carter was arrested the following day in Hidalgo County when the 527 kilograms of marijuana were discovered in his vehicle.
Carter pled guilty to a marijuana trafficking charge on Jan. 31, 2012, and admitted knowingly possessing 527 kilograms of marijuana on July 27, 2011. Carter admitted knowing that the marijuana was concealed in his commercial vehicle and that he expected to be paid for delivering the marijuana for further distribution.
On Aug. 13, 2013, Eric Harris was arrested in New York City, N.Y., and Gary Harris was arrested in Carle Place, N.Y. The two men were later transferred to New Mexico to face the charges against them. Gary Harris pled guilty on March 5, 2014, and admitted ownership of 300 pounds of 527 kilograms of marijuana. He also admitted traveling with Eric Harris from New York to Arizona to facilitate the purchase and transportation of the marijuana from Arizona to New York. Gary Harris has agreed to forfeit $52,882.97 in drug proceeds which were seized from two bank accounts and a safe deposit box by HSI pursuant to seizure warrants. On March 7, 2014, Eric Harris entered a guilty plea and admitted conspiring with Gary Harris, Carter and others to distribute the 527 kilograms of marijuana found in Carter’s commercial vehicle.
Sentencing hearings for Carter, Eric Harris and Gary Harris have yet to be scheduled. At sentencing, each man faces a sentence of not less than five years and not more than 40 years in prison.
This case was investigated by the Deming office of HSI with assistance from the New Mexico Department of Public Safety Motor Transportation Division, and is being prosecuted by Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy M. Castellano of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office.