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Nov. 30, 2010

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(LAREDO, Texas) – A Laredo jury, selected on Nov. 22, 2010, to hear the case of a Nuevo Laredo man charged with conspiring to and possessing with intent to distribute marijuana which he allegedly carried across the Rio Grande River in September 2010, returned guilty verdicts late yesterday afternoon, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

Gregorio Silva-Garcia, 31, was found guilty on both counts for which he stood accused after one day of trial on Monday, Nov. 29, 2010, before United States District Judge Micaela Alvarez. Silva-Garcia faces a minimum mandatory sentence of five years up to a maximum of 40 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $5 million and at least a four-year-term of supervised release. 

Silva-Garcia, who has been in federal custody without bond since his arrest, will remain in custody pending sentencing on March 2, 2011.

During the brief trial, the jury heard testimony from Border Patrol (BP) agents that Silva-Garcia was arrested on the U.S. side of the river bank north of the World Trade Bridge in Laredo, Texas, on Sept. 21, 2010, after a BP agent saw several persons swimming across from Mexico to the United States and begin walking up a 60-foot bluff. After the group made it across the river, a member of the BP’s special narcotics interdiction strike team saw eight persons walking up the bluff. Two appeared to be guiding the other six, who were walking in the dark and close to one another without the use of flashlights and following the guides. Each of the six was carrying a bundle on his back. The BP agent, anticipating where the group might arrive on the bluff, waited in a concealed position as the group climbed. Once the group reached the top of the bluff, at the agent’s signal, a nearby helicopter flying support flew in over the men. Carrying his flashlight, the agent approached the group of six bundle carriers. The six bundle carriers and their guides then fled. The agent caught the nearest carrier - Silva-Garcia - who was wearing one of the bundles containing marijuana. The others fled across the river into Mexico. BP agents recovered a total of six bundles, including the bundle Silva-Garcia carried and five left in the brush. All six bundles were found to contain a total combined weight of 318 pounds or 144.26 kilograms of marijuana.

After his arrest in an interview with special agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Silva-Garcia denied knowing anything about marijuana, denied he had a bundle on his back, denied he was with the group of others and even denied having been caught by the BP agent. Silva-Garcia claimed that he was a plumber and was carrying plumbing tools in order to work. No tools were found at the scene.

The case resulting in the convictions was investigated by BP and DEA. Assistant United States Attorney Roberto F. Ramirez tried the case.