News and Press Releases

Truck Driver Sentenced 17 ½ Years For Hauling 200 Pounds Of Cocaine In Hidden Compartment

February 2, 2011

TUSCALOOSA – A federal judge today sentenced a Texas man to 17 ½ years in prison for possessing with the intent to distribute more than 200 pounds of cocaine, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance, Alabama Department of Public Safety Director Hugh B. McCall and federal Drug Enforcement Administration Assistant Special Agent in Charge Gregory X. Borland.

U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler sentenced JOSE ANTONIO HERRERA, 46, of Weslaco, Texas, on an October conviction on the drug charges. A federal jury found HERRERA guilty of transporting the cocaine in a hidden compartment of a tractor-trailer truck.

Judge Coogler ordered HERRERA to serve five years of supervised release after completing his prison term, and prohibited him from working as a truck driver after he is released from prison.

“Prison is the only appropriate destination for someone who was running illegal drugs across the United States,” Vance said. “Thanks to the work of Alabama State Troopers and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, more than 200 pounds of cocaine were kept off the streets of our towns and our cities,” she said.

“Mexican drug-trafficking organizations continue to pose the most significant drug threat to the security of the United States,” Borland said. “In addition to smuggling huge quantities of drugs for distribution in Alabama, these criminals use Alabama highways for shipments of drugs to other states, and to return millions of dollars in illegal drug proceeds to the Mexican cartels,” he said.

“It is vital that local, state and federal law enforcement agencies assign the highest priority to investigating and prosecuting those who are involved in this activity,” Borland said. “In this case, the DEA is deeply appreciative of the dedication and professionalism of its partners in the Alabama Department of Public Safety and the United States Attorney’s Office. Through coordinated efforts such as these, we are negatively impacting these criminal organizations.”

“The Alabama Department of Public Safety is pleased with the outcome of this investigation and the tremendous support of the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” McCall said. “As a result of Judge Coogler’s sentence, a strong message was sent to those who pose such a significant threat to our society. The working relationship and partnership we have with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Attorney’s Office has never been better, and it is this partnership that will keep all citizens safer through aggressive enforcement and equal justice through professional prosecution,” he said.

“This case reaffirms to our troopers that their efforts are supported by the citizens who found Mr. Herrera guilty; and Judge Coogler’s sentence demonstrates no tolerance for this criminal element in our society,” McCall said.

According to evidence at trial, Alabama State Troopers discovered the large amount of cocaine in a compartment under the sleeper berth of the truck HERRERA was driving after they stopped him in May on Interstate 20/59 for a routine commercial vehicle safety inspection. A similar hidden compartment had been found in a truck HERRERA was driving in March. That compartment was found by an officer who approached HERRERA at a truck stop in Georgia, but the compartment was empty and HERRERA was not detained.

Alabama State Troopers and DEA investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brad Felton and Enid Dean Athanas prosecuted it.



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