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Oct. 4, 2010

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(LAREDO, Texas) –  A 23-year-old Laredo man will be spending more than seven years in federal prison without parole for conspiring to smuggle more than $1.5 million in drug proceeds into the United States, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

This morning, U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez sentenced Juan Sanchez, 23, of Laredo, Texas, to 87 months in federal prison for conspiracy to launder $1,599,001 in drug proceeds. Judge Alvarez denied the defendant’s request for a lower sentence based upon his first offender status telling the defendant that drug organizations stay in business because people like him are willing to get the drug organization’s money back to Mexico. Sanchez was convicted April 2010 after pleading guilty.

According to the record of the case, on Oct. 9, 2009, United States Border Patrol (BP) agents working watch duties near the Rio Grande River border with Mexico observed a KIA sedan at an intersection near the riverbanks of the Rio Grande River in Laredo. Five individuals in their underwear, who appeared to have recently waded the river, were observed near the trunk of the vehicle. The agents, aware this location is well-known for alien and other smuggling activity, approached the group. While the others fled toward the Rio Grande River, Sanchez drove away in the KIA sedan. BP agents pursued Sanchez. Sanchez eventually stopped the KIA sedan and dove into the river in an attempt to avoid apprehension, but to no avail. BP agents apprehended Sanchez and searched the KIA where the found three duffle bags containing approximately $1,599,001 in cash.

Sanchez confessed to Immigration and Customs Enforcement - Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) agents that he had accepted an offer to smuggle the currency from the U.S. to Mexico in exchange for $500 per bundle of cash contained in the duffle bags, knowing the money was the proceeds of drug sales in the United States. Sanchez retrieved the duffle bags at a location in the U.S. and then drove the bags to a pre-determined location near the riverbanks where he met with individuals to whom he was going to transfer the duffle bags full of currency and was seen by BP agents. The individuals were to carry the bags across the river into Mexico.

By order of the court today, the $1.5 million in drug proceeds seized from Sanchez has been forfeited to the United States. 

Following the completion of the prison term, Sanchez has been ordered to serve a three-year-term of supervised release. Sanchez has been in federal custody since his October 2009 arrest and will remain in custody to serve his sentence.

Assistant United States Attorney Diana Song prosecuted the case.


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