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Feb. 18, 2010


(BROWNSVILLE, Texas) –  A Mexican national convicted of attempting to smuggle bulk cash from the United States into Mexico has been sentenced to prison, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

United States District Judge Andrew Hanen sentenced Sergio Hernandez-Pedraza, 30, of Valle Hermosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico, to a 36-month-term of imprisonment at a hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010. Hernandez-Pedraza pleaded guilty in October 2009 to attempting to smuggle $376,389 in cash from the United States into Mexico.

At his re-arraignment, Hernandez-Pedraza admitted that on July 30, 2009, he denied having more than $10,000 to declare as he and his wife attempted to exit the United States via the Brownsville and Matamoros International Bridge in Brownsville. He had actually hidden seven foil vacuum sealed packages containing the money behind the rear passenger seats of the vehicle in which he was traveling. Hernandez-Pedraza was to be paid by someone he claimed not to know for smuggling the money. 

Hernandez-Pedraza’s smuggling attempt was foiled by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers on duty at the international bridge. At primary inspection, CBP officers noticed Hernandez-Pedraza appeared to be nervous. When asked if he or his wife had any items to declare, including weapons, drugs or currency in excess of $10,000, both gave negative declarations. CBP officers conducted a routine inspection of the vehicle and found the seven foil vacuum sealed packages containing the hundreds of thousands of dollars in United States currency. CBP officers seized the case and referred the matter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for further investigation.

When questioned by ICE agents, Hernandez-Pedraza confessed he had hidden the packaged money in an attempt to smuggle it out of the country and was to be paid an unspecified amount of money for the effort.  

The court remanded Hernandez-Pedraza into the custody of the United States Marshals Service to begin serving his sentence pending his transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility. The prison term will be followed by a two-year-term of supervised release.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Oscar Ponce.




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