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June 22, 2011

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Jury Convicts Mexican National of Trafficking Marijuana

Duress“ defense fails

McALLEN, Texas – A federal jury has convicted a Mexican national of conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today. 

Francisco Javier Chavarria, 22, a Mexican national residing in San Juan, Texas, was found guilty on Wednesday, June 22, 2011, by a McAllen jury of both offenses after approximately four hours of deliberation and following a two-day trial. U.S. District Judge Randy Crane, who presided over the trial, accepted the jury’s verdicts and has set Chavarria for sentencing on Aug. 31, 2011.

During the trial, the United States presented evidence that Chavarria and several co-conspirators transported approximately 133.6 kilograms of marijuana valued at $106,880 from the Rio Grande River further north into the United States during the early morning hours of March 15, 2011. According to witnesses, on the 15th, while conducting surveillance along the Rio Grande River near Runn, Texas, U.S. Border Patrol (BP) agents saw Chavarria and others walking in a group and carrying bundles. Suspecting the group was involved in smuggling illegal narcotics, the BP agents apprehended the suspects and later recovered six bundles containing marijuana. Chavarria’s claimed defense of duress, that is, that he had engaged in the illegal smuggling activity because his life had been threatened, failed with the jury. Five others charged with Chavarria for their involvement in this marijuana smuggling effort have pleaded guilty and are pending sentencing.

Chavarria faces no less than five years and up to 40 years imprisonment on each of the two counts of conviction. Chavarria has been in federal custody without bond since his March 2011 arrest and will remain in custody pending sentencing.

The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by the United States Border Patrol in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration. Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSA) Jason C. Honeycutt and Cory J. H. Crenshaw are prosecuting the case. The AUSAs were ably assisted both before and during trial by Logan Campbell, a law school student interning with the U.S. Attorney’s Office as a law clerk.