Skip to main content
Press Release

Houstonian imprisoned for attempting to import enough fentanyl to kill 2 million people

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

LAREDO, Texas - A 49-year-old Houston woman has been ordered to federal prison for conspiring to import fentanyl, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

A federal jury deliberated for less than an hour before convicting Monica Mata Vasquez Aug. 25, 2023, following a two-day trial.

U.S. District Judge Diana Saldana has now ordered Vasquez to serve 136 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by five years of supervised release. At the hearing, the court emphasized the significance of this case noting that fentanyl is destroying our community and killing people across the country.

“It takes only a tiny amount of fentanyl to kill a loved one. Vasquez brought in 4.6 kilos of that dangerous drug from Mexico--enough to kill approximately 2 million people,” said Hamdani. “She routinely travelled to Monterrey, Mexico, to pick up narcotics and did it all for money. She prioritized her greed over the well-being of our community. Today’s sentence takes a callous drug transporter off the streets and away from the border and guarantees that Vasquez will no longer profit from the pervasive destruction of fentanyl.”

“Illicit fentanyl is one of the greatest dangers we’re facing as a country,” said Special Agent in Charge Craig Larrabee of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Antonio. “The conviction and sentencing of Vasquez highlights the strength of our law enforcement partnerships who spend countless hours combating a poison that is harmful to many communities and families. HSI is steadfast in its efforts to disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal organizations and combat the flow of illicit opioids into the United States.”

On March 10, 2023, Vasquez arrived at the Juarez-Lincoln Port of Entry in Laredo and attempted to enter the United States. She had a suspicious travel itinerary which caused authorities to refer her to secondary inspection. There, authorities noticed anomalies in the battery of her car. Law enforcement removed the battery and found four bundles of fentanyl hidden inside it.

The total weight of the fentanyl was 4.6 kilograms, an amount with the approximate strength to kill more than two million people.

The jury also saw text messages from Vasquez’s phone which showed she had been coordinating “trips” with co-conspirators to and from Monterrey, Mexico, into the United States as far back as July 2022. The evidence showed Vasquez had driven to such locations as Alabama and had conversations about the purchase and installation of car batteries.

Further testimony indicated these messages showed Vasquez was part of an agreement to import and traffic narcotics.

The defense attempted to convince the jury that Vasquez did not know the drugs were inside the car. The jury did not believe those claims and found her guilty of engaging in a conspiracy to import fentanyl.

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

HSI conducted the investigation with the assistance of Customs and Border Protection and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leslie Cortez and Brian Bajew prosecuted the case.


Updated January 11, 2024

Drug Trafficking