April 28, 2009
JURY CONVICTS LOPENO, TEXAS MAN OF MARIJUANA TRAFFICKING
(LAREDO, TX) – A jury has convicted Jose Eli Guerra, 57, of Lopeño, Texas, of possession with intent to distribute marijuana approximately 18 kilograms of marijuana, acting United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. The verdict was returned today after one day of trial testimony on Monday, April 27, 2009. Deliberations began today following argument by the parties and the court’s instructions to the jury. Senior United States District Court Judge George P. Kazen presided over the trial.
Defendant Guerra was arrested on Dec. 10, 2008 at the IH-35 U.S. Border Patrol Immigration Checkpoint located at the 29 mile marker north of Laredo, Texas while driving a black GMC Sierra single-cab pick up truck with temporary dealer Texas registration. During an immigration inspection, a service K-9 alerted to the undercarriage of the truck around the spare tire. Inside the tire, Border Patrol agents discovered nine cellophane and carbon paper wrapped bundles of marijuana weighing a total of 18 kilograms hidden in the spare tire.
Guerra denied any knowledge of the marijuana in the tire but admitted to DEA agents he had purchased the vehicle about one month prior, had been the sole operator of the vehicle, and no other persons had access to his truck. Guerra suggested the marijuana must have been in the spare tire when he purchased the vehicle on Nov. 19, 2008. Guerra’s suggestion was contradicted at trial when evidence was presented that an earlier inspection by Border Patrol agents of the spare tire of Guerra’s truck following a dog alert at the Highway 83 checkpoint on Nov. 22, 2008 – just days after Guerra had purchased the truck -- showed that the tire was empty then.
Guerra, who has a prior state drug felony conviction, faces an increased maximum punishment of up to 10 years imprisonment, a $500,000 fine and at least a four year term of supervised release at his sentencing which is expected to occur in mid-Summer 2009.
During trial, evidence was presented through the testimony of United States Border Patrol (USBP) agents, a Department of Public Safety Narcotics (DPS) Sergeant, and special agents and a forensic chemist of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Roberto F. Ramirez.
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