Aug. 27, 2010
JURY RETURNS GUILTY VERDICTS AFTER COCAINE SMUGGLING TRIAL
(LAREDO, Texas) – Pedro Vasquez, 48, a Mexican national with permanent resident alien status in the U.S., has been convicted of all counts alleged in a three-count indictment accusing him of trafficking more than 10 kilograms of cocaine, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.
After a day of trial and approximately a half day of deliberation, the jury found Vasquez guilty of conspiracy, possession with the intent to distribute cocaine and importation of cocaine on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010. United States District Judge Micaela Alvarez, who presided over the trial, remanded Vasquez to custody without bond pending his sentencing hearing. Vasquez faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison without parole and a $4 million fine.
According to trial testimony, on May 25, 2010, Vasquez entered the United States from Mexico at a Laredo port of entry driving a 1997 Chevrolet Suburban. As part of Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Last Chance operations, which involves a seven-point inspection by a specialized team known as the Anti-Terrorism and Contraband Enforcement Team, Vasquez was stopped at secondary inspection. During the course of the inspection, officers found 10.25 kilograms of cocaine - with a street value of almost $300,000 - concealed in two battery compartments. Each battery compartment contained three bundles of cocaine while a motorcycle battery was used to operate the vehicle. In addition to the contraband, inspecting officers found various documents including a sales contract for the 1997 Chevrolet Suburban and tools that matched the terminals for the batteries located directly behind Vasquez.
During trial, the defense unsuccessfully sought to convince the jury that Vasquez had no knowledge of the contraband secreted in the batteries because the tools found behind him were “regular” tools. However, the investigation conducted by special agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations leading to the charges had located the seller of the Suburban. The seller testified during trial that the 1997 Chevrolet Suburban driven by Vasquez had been sold with only one battery. Additionally, agents testified that not only did the tools found behind Vasquez match the terminals of the batteries containing the cocaine, a bucket containing “regular” tools had been found in the rear of the Suburban.
Assistant United States Attorneys Suntrease Williams and James Ustynoski prosecuted the case.
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