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Aug. 6, 2012

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Convicted Pharr Drug Trafficker Handed Federal Prison Sentence

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Israel Guerrero Sr., of Pharr, Texas, will now be serving 108 months in federal prison following his convictions of conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute and possession of 122 kilograms of marijuana, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Guerrero, 49, was convicted by a jury on both counts as charged after a three-day trial on April 16, 2012.

U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen, who presided over the trial, considered the evidence and sentenced Guerrero to 97 months for the conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute charges, which will be served concurrently. An additional sentence of 60 months was handed down by the court today for the defendant’s failure to appear on the conspiracy and possession charges that were originally set for trial in 2007. Eleven of those months are to run consecutively for a total sentence of 108 months. In handing down the sentence, Judge Hanen noted the defendant’s role as a leader of a drug trafficking organization in which Guerrero routinely recruited individuals to drive loads of marijuana through international ports of entry in Hidalgo County, Texas.

Guerrero was stopped on April 14, 2007, at the Los Indios Port of Entry in Cameron County, Texas, after inspectors discovered an active warrant for his arrest for a prior drug offense. After a secondary inspection, a drug sniffing dog alerted and a subsequent search found 122 kilograms of marijuana in the van. The marijuana was hidden in a sophisticated manner within the vehicle that included tap bars built into the sides of the vehicles to help avoid detection. Guerrero claimed he had been paid $50 to take the van from Valle Hermosa, Mexico, and leave it at a hotel near the airport in McAllen, Texas.

Guerrero failed to appear for his original trial on Sept. 4, 2007, and was a fugitive from justice until he was apprehended on Sept. 13, 2011, by the United States Marshals Service. The defendant pleaded guilty to failing to appear on the conspiracy and possession charges on Feb. 28, 2012.

He will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future. 

The government previously prosecuted two other passengers of the van. Israel Guerrero Jr., 29, of Pharr, Texas, was found guilty by a federal jury of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute and possession of 122 kilograms of marijuana on July 11, 2007, and was sentenced to 100 months in federal prison, while Ana Gabriella Garcia Herrera, 24, also of Pharr, Texas, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute the 122 kilograms of marijuana and was sentenced to 40 months federal prison.

The case was investigated by agents from Homeland Security Investigations and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Oscar Ponce and Karen Betancourt.