Merced County Traffic Stop Leads to Indictment for Interstate Transportation of over 40 Pounds of Cocaine
FRESNO, Calif. — A federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment today against Martha Patricia Pio, 37, of Tacoma, Washington, charging her with conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and possession with the intent to distribute cocaine, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
According to court documents, on July 1, 2015, Pio was stopped by a California Highway Patrol officer while driving northbound on Highway 99. During a subsequent search of her vehicle, officers located a hidden compartment containing 17‑brick‑shaped packages of cocaine weighing a total of approximately 18.5 kilograms, or about 40.7 pounds.
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the California Highway Patrol. Assistant United States Attorney Michael Frye is prosecuting the case.
If convicted, Pio faces a maximum statutory penalty of 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.