Judge Sentences Bus Passenger for Smuggling Heroin
LAREDO, Texas – A 29-year-old Laredo man has been ordered to federal prison following his conviction of conspiracy and possession with the intent to distribute more than one kilogram of methamphetamine, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. A federal jury convicted Altagracia Guadalupe Vargas, 29, of Laredo, in March 2015 following a two-day trial.
Today, U.S. District Court Judge Diana Saldana ordered Vargas to serve a total of 121 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by five years of supervised release.
On Dec. 12, 2014, Vargas took part in a conspiracy to smuggle heroin through the U.S. Border Patrol (BP) checkpoint on interstate 35, while traveling as a passenger on a Turimex bus. Upon investigation, authorities discovered Vargas was carrying 3.5 kilograms of black-tar heroin, concealed in the inner linings of two carry-on bags. Vargas was questioned and gave multiple inconsistent statements.
At trial, the jury heard testimony from a variety of federal agents who described the discovery of heroin. Chemists with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and drug value experts also explained the confiscated drug was, in fact, heroin and had a value at more than $100,000.
Vargas testified and attempted to convince the jury that she believed the bags contained computer tools and were concealed to prevent theft. She said the bags belonged to a man named “Don Tono,” which contradicted her earlier statement that the bag belonged to her sister. Vargas also testified she received $50 from Don Tono for this trip. However, the government demonstrated that she had actually paid $75 of her own money for the bus ticket, which would have resulted in a $25 loss.
Vargas has been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The investigation leading to charges was conducted by BP, Customs and Border Protection and DEA. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alfredo De La Rosa prosecuted the case.