Colorado Man Pleads Guilty To Federal Cocaine Trafficking Charge
ALBUQUERQUE – Daniel Enrique Padilla-Esparza, 36, of Thornton, Colo., pleaded guilty today in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., to an indictment charging him with possession of more than five kilograms of cocaine with intent to distribute.
Padilla-Esparza was arrested on Sept. 13, 2013, on a criminal complaint after U.S. Border Patrol agents found more than 35 pounds (almost 16 kilograms) of cocaine in his vehicle during a traffic stop north of the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 25 in Doña Ana County, N.M. The cocaine was discovered in a concealed compartment above the vehicle’s gas tank. Padilla-Esparza subsequently was indicted on the same charge.
On June 11, 2014, the court denied Padilla-Esparza’s motion to suppress the cocaine and other evidence seized from his vehicle. During today’s hearing, Padilla-Esparza entered a guilty plea to the indictment under a plea agreement that permits him to appeal from the order denying his motion to suppress the cocaine.
In entering his guilty plea, Padilla-Esparza admitted that on Sept. 13, 2013, while he was driving from El Paso, Texas, to Colorado on Interstate 25, he knew he had cocaine hidden in a secret compartment in his vehicle. Padilla-Esparza further admitted knowing that the drugs had been secreted in the compartment while he was in El Paso and Juarez, Mexico. Padilla-Esparza expected to be paid $4,000.00 form transporting the cocaine to Colorado.
Padilla-Esparza has been in federal custody since his arrest and remains detained pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled. At sentencing, Padilla-Esparza faces a mandatory minimum of ten years in prison to a maximum of life imprisonment.
This case was investigated by the Las Cruces office of Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Border Patrol. Assistant U.S. Attorney Anna R. Wright of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office is prosecuting the case.