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August 11, 2009


(LAREDO, Texas) - A federal jury convicted a Mexican man of conspiring to distribute more than 4,000 pounds of marijuana following a one day trial, United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. The jury returned its verdict late yesterday afternoon.

Jose Antonio Yruegas-Pedraza, 28, was convicted of conspiracy to and possession with intent to distribute 4,015.06 pounds of marijuana which had been concealed inside a legitimate load of plastic bags that a co-conspirator imported over the World Trade Bridge from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. 

During trial before United States District Judge Micaela Alvarez, the jury heard testimony from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents about their surveillance of a warehouse located on Mines Road in Laredo on May 26, 2009, where they anticipated a shipment of marijuana to arrive. Meanwhile, inspectors at the World Trade Bridge found more than 4,000 pounds of marijuana in a load of new plastic bags in a tractor-trailer driven by Ramiro Pena-Castillo and later determined to be bound for the same warehouse under surveillance by ICE agents. The load of marijuana was taken to the warehouse. When the tractor–trailer arrived, Yruegas-Pedraza got into the trailer to unload the marijuana. ICE agents, assisted by the Webb County Sheriff’s Department, moved in to arrest Yruegas-Pedraza and others. Yruegas-Pedraza fled the scene but was found hiding in a dumpster.

Yruegas-Pedraza made a full confession admitting he was hired in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, to unload the marijuana and that he recruited others to help. 

In custody since his arrest, Yrugegas-Pedraza faces no less than 10 years and up to a maximum of life imprisonment as well as a $4 million fine or both at his sentencing, which is set for Oct. 22, 2009.

Three other Mexican nationals – Ramiro Pena-Castillo, the driver of the tractor-trailer, Benito Garcia-Garcia and Pasual Alberto Valdes-Morillon – and two U. S. citizens – Lauro Miguel Reyes and Adam Patino – have been convicted for their involvement in the drug conspiracy after pleading guilty. They are pending sentencing. Charges were dismissed against a third U.S. Citizen - Amado Dominguez.

Assistant United States Attorney Josh Ackerman prosecuted the case.

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