Laredo Jury Convicts Chicago Man of Trafficking Marijuana
|July 20, 2011|
LAREDO, Texas - A federal jury has convicted a Chicago resident of conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute more than 50 kilograms of marijuana, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today. The jury returned its verdicts late yesterday afternoon.
United States District Court Judge George P. Kazen, who presided over the trial, accepted the verdicts convicting Hugo Cruz, 29, of Chicago, Ill. The court has ordered a presentence investigation report and will set sentencing upon completion of the report. Cruz faces a maximum punishment of 20 years in federal prison without parole and a $1 million fine.
During trial, the jury heard testimony from Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers, who described the events of June 28, 2010. On that date, during an inspection of a 1997 Econoline van being driven by Marco Antonio Toledo at the Lincoln Juarez Bridge, CBP officers recovered 37 bundles of marijuana hidden in the side panels of the vehicle. Toledo was arrested, charged and has been subsequently convicted by guilty plea of possession with intent to distribute the marijuana and sentenced to 24 months in federal prison without parole. As a result of the continued ICE-HSI investigation, agents learned that the marijuana was obtained in Guadalajara, Mexico, and bound for Chicago and Cruz.
The defense attempted to convince the jury that Cruz had merely ridden as a passenger with Toledo to Mexico to see his sick father because he was short on money and had flown back to Chicago after Toledo had left to return to the United States. However, through testimony of a variety of witnesses including business personnel and records, the government proved that Cruz had supplied the van with the hidden compartments to Toledo, promised Toledo $10,000 for transporting the contraband from Mexico to Chicago, traveled to Mexico with Toledo, arranged for and supervised the loading of the van with the contraband and sent Toledo back to the United States alone. Witnesses also testified that Cruz transferred the title to the van from his father’s name to Toledo’s name while in Chicago and arranged for and paid for American and Mexican Insurance for the vehicle. Six days later, on June 21, Cruz picked up Toledo at his residence in the van and they traveled together to the border and into Mexico. Through receipts, the government proved that Cruz paid for everything along the way and, while in Mexico, arranged for Toledo to receive 700 pesos for expenses. Cruz flew back to Chicago four days later.
The jury returned its guilty verdicts after approximately one and a half hours of deliberation.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jim Hepburn and Roel Canales are prosecuting the case.