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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Texas

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Marijuana smuggling trucker sentenced after recanting wife’s hostage hoax

LAREDO, Texas – A 33-year-old resident of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, has been ordered to federal prison following his conviction of conspiracy to import and importing more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.

Ruben Maldonado-Espino pleaded guilty July 7.

Today, U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia-Marmolejo handed Maldonado-Espino a 36-month term of imprisonment. Not a U.S. citizen, he is expected to face removal proceedings following the sentence. At the hearing, the court heard additional testimony about his false claims of coercion. In handing down the sentence, the court noted that falsely claiming your family is being threatened hurts others – those that actually do have that happen. More who falsely claim the cartel is threatening them could cause authorities to be less inclined to believe them.

“While some may mistakenly view smuggling controlled substances as a path to a quick profit, the sentencing of Maldonado-Espino demonstrates the serious consequences for those who engage in criminal activity,” said Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). “HSI will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to protect our communities and bring drug smugglers to justice.”

On May 7, Maldonado-Espino drove a semi-truck and trailer through the World Trade Bridge near Laredo. Authorities conducted an X-ray examination of the vehicle which revealed anomalies in the trailer.

Law enforcement began to open the doors, at which time Maldonado-Espino admitted he knew drugs were in the trailer. He claimed a Mexican drug cartel was holding his wife hostage and forced him to smuggle the narcotics.

However, authorities contacted his wife who appeared to be calm and not under distress. Maldonado-Espino eventually admitted the story was a lie he was told to give to law enforcement.

Law enforcement ultimately found 198 bundles of marijuana inside the trailer. They had an approximate weight of 4,601 pounds and an estimated street value of $875,000.

He 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. Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Harrison prosecuted the case.

Drug Trafficking
Updated November 18, 2020