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Press Release

Mexican Citizen Convicted Of Smuggling Heroin In Her Luggage At IAH

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

HOUSTON – A Mexican woman who was smuggling nearly two kilograms of heroin in her luggage as she arrived at George Bush-Intercontinental Airport (IAH) from Ecuador has entered a plea of guilty, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today.

Yessica Chanel Cabanillas-Torres, 21, of Sonora, Mexico, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute more than a kilogram of heroin just moments ago before United States District Judge Gray H. Miller.

At the hearing, Cabanillas-Torres admitted that on Oct. 4, 2012, she arrived at IAH as a passenger aboard a flight from Quito, Ecuador. Her ticket indicated she was continuing her travel through Houston to Newark, N.J. Upon her arrival at IAH, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers questioned Cabanillas-Torres about her reasons for visiting the United States and examined her and her luggage for potentially prohibited items or contraband.

During the examination, she presented herself and two hard-sided suitcases to CBP officers for examination. Officers removed the contents of the suitcases and noticed the suitcases seemed to be unusually heavy. Officers then x-rayed the two suitcases at which time anomalies were discovered along the inner frame of each bag. Based on these anomalies and the weight of the suitcases, officers  drilled into the two suitcases and discovered a brown powdery substance within the walls of each suitcase which field tested positive for the presence of heroin. Officers then dismantled one of the suitcases and found several small bundles of heroin inside with a gross weight of approximately 1.2 kilograms. Officers then left the second suitcase intact and sent it to the CBP forensic laboratory to be disassembled in order to remove the suspected heroin inside. The second suitcase was also found to contain bundles of heroin and  packaged in a similar fashion to the first suitcase. The total amount of heroin found was approximately 1.934 kilograms with a purity of  approximately 82.7%

Cabanillas-Torres indicated she had been hired by an individual in Mexico to transport luggage from Quito to Newark in exchange for $4,000. She stated she did not know the identity of the person in Newark to whom she was supposed to deliver the luggage, but knew the luggage contained drugs and was intending to deliver these suitcases to another person in the U.S.

Judge Miller has set for sentencing for May 17, 2013, at 11:00 a.m., at which time she faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life imprisonment and a possible $10 million fine. She will remain in custody pending that hearing.

This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and CBP. Assistant United States Attorney Arthur R. Jones is prosecuting the case.

Updated April 30, 2015