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April 24, 2009

PORT RUNNERS SENTENCED TO LENGTHY PRISON TERMS

(LAREDO, Texas) – United States District Judge Joseph Hood sent a strong message today to anyone thinking of attempting to go through a Port of Entry into the United States by vehicle by breaking through barriers to avoid inspection thinking they won’t be pursued, acting United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. Four persons who did just that in October 2008 - carrying more than 700 kilograms of marijuana - were sentenced yesterday to prison terms ranging from almost six years to 16 years in federal prison without parole.

On Oct. 14, 2008, Jesus Rodriguez-Jasso, 28, drove a large Suburban SUV from Mexico into the United States loaded with 718 kilograms of marijuana along with three adult passengers. The front passenger was his wife Yolanda Fernandez-Narvaez, 28, while Angel Perez-Contreras, 30, and Guillermo Alonzo-Salazar,18, rode in the back along with the marijuana. Most vexing to Judge Hood was that the three minor children of defendants Rodriguez-Jasso and Fernandez-Narvaez were also riding in the back. 

After breaking through the barrier going against traffic into the outbound lanes, Jasso led Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers on a dangerous high speed chase through the streets of downtown Laredo. After nearly causing multiple accidents, Jasso made a run for it back to Mexico. He lost control of the vehicle and crashed into one of the guard booths at the outbound lanes of the bridge. After the crash, CBP Officers were stunned to see the amount of marijuana and persons inside the SUV, particularly the minor children.

After investigating the incident, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents soon discovered this was not the defendants first time engaging in such outrageous behavior. On at least three prior occasions, Jasso drove the same Suburban, or a similar vehicle, accompanied by the same co-defendants and contraband into the United States, but evaded capture. At yesterday’s sentencing hearing, a CBP officer testified to the shocking details of one of the prior escapes. In June 2007, the testifying officer was nearly killed when he attempted to block the path of the oncoming Suburban. As he jumped out of the way and drew his service firearm on Jasso from only a few feet away, the officer told Judge Hood that Jasso actually grabbed his own child using him as a human shield and yelled in Spanish, “go ahead and shoot, and you will kill my son.” The officer testified he was forced to let Jasso drive by, and all defendants got away. 

The United States urged the court to consider the prior port running episodes in determining the sentence of each of the defendants. The defendants, through their lawyers, opposed the recommendation. When Judge Hood determined the United States had met its burden of proving the other crimes for sentencing purposes, all four defendants asked for mercy citing to the rough economic conditions in Mexico, as well as some of their drug addictions.

Rodriguez-Jasso was sentenced to almost 16 years (188 months) incarceration. Perez-Contreras was sentenced to eight years in prison, Fernandez- Narvaez received six years and Alonzo-Salazar was ordered to serve 70 months, just short of 6 years. All federal prison terms are without parole. The defendants have been in custody since their October 2008 arrest.

This case was investigated by members of ICE and CBP and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney James Ustynoski.

 

 

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