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Dec.5, 2011

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North Carolina Man Convicted in Meth Conspiracy

LAREDO, Texas – Salvador Hernandez, 25, of Newton Grove, N.C., has entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. U.S. Magistrate Judge Guillermo Garcia accepted his plea and is expected to file a report and recommendation with Senior U.S. District Judge George P. Kazen recommending the plea be accepted and the defendant be convicted of the federal felony offense.

During the plea hearing today, Hernandez admitted to facilitating a plan on Dec. 15, 2010, to import a quantity of controlled substances into the United States from Mexico and to distribute the narcotics to other unspecified persons in Atlanta, Ga. Specifically, the factual basis in support of the guilty plea indicated that he spoke with two other persons, Eduardo Mejia and Erika Canino, to arrange for them to come to Laredo in December 2010 to meet with other persons in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, and to bring in five kilograms of cocaine.

On Dec. 15, Mejia and Canino arrived at the Gateway to the Americas Bridge in Laredo, Texas, from Mexico as passengers in a taxi at which time Caninio declared three kegs of beer. As she proceeded to pay the alcohol tax, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers became suspicious and inspected the kegs with an X-Ray machine at which time they discovered the kegs contained a total of 14.6 kilograms of liquid methamphetamine.

When Immigration Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) special agents spoke with Mejia and Canino, they both admitted they had made arrangements with Hernandez to come to Laredo and bring in the kegs containing narcotics, although they both expected the kegs to contain cocaine. Mejia admitted that he was expecting to be paid $3,500 while Canino would get $5,000 for their part in the conspiracy to import the drug-laden kegs and transport and deliver the kegs to others in Atlanta. Hernandez further admitted that he helped purchase Canino’s plane tickets for a one-way flight to Laredo and that he gave Mejia a ride to the airport in North Carolina for Mejia’s flight to meet others in Nuevo Laredo where he would pick up the narcotics.

Hernandez is expected to be sentenced in February 2012. At sentencing, Hernandez will face a minimum mandatory of 10 years to a maximum term of imprisonment of life and a maximum fine of $10 million. Hernandez has been in custody and ordered detained since his arrest in North Carolina on the un-sealed indictment on Sept. 27, 2011.

The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by ICE-HSI and CBP.  Assistant United States Attorney Roberto F. Ramirez is prosecuting the case.