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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Pennsylvania

Friday, February 27, 2015

Mexican Sentenced To Prison For Smuggling Meth In Frames Of Religious Art

PITTSBURGH - A Mexican citizen living in Pittsburgh, Pa., has been sentenced in federal court to 60 months of incarceration and five years of supervision on his conviction of violating federal narcotics laws, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.

Chief United States District Judge Joy Flowers Conti imposed the sentence on Carmelo Rojas- Perez, 31, born in Toluca, Mexico, and recently residing in Pittsburgh. Judge Conti noted that the defendant will be deported back to Mexico after serving his prison sentence.

According to information presented to the court, Rojas-Perez had initially received a “test” package from Toluca, Mexico, consisting of a framed religious picture, which contained no drugs. Rojas- Perez opened the package and assured himself that the package had not been tampered with, before storing it in his residence. Approximately one week later, Rojas-Perez received two additional framed religious pictures, containing nearly one kilogram of methamphetamine hidden inside the hollowed-out frames. Federal Homeland Security Agents and Pennsylvania State Police Western Interdiction Unit Troopers executed a search warrant at the defendant’s residence before the methamphetamine could make it onto the streets. Investigators also located Rojas-Perez’s cellphone in his residence and determined that it contained both text messages with his methamphetamine co-conspirators and pictures of apparent drugs on top of piles of money. The methamphetamine seized is estimated to be worth between $22,000 and $45,000 on the street, depending on how much it was diluted before reaching actual drug users. Depending on that dilution, the drugs involved an estimated 3,500 to 7,000 individual hits of methamphetamine.

During the sentencing hearing, Judge Conti noted that unlike American citizens who are jailed in federal facilities, illegal aliens are not eligible for early release from their sentences, do not get credit for completing drug programs, and often are unable to serve their time in a minimum security facility.

Assistant United States Attorney Ross E. Lenhardt prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.

U.S. Attorney Hickton commended Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Pennsylvania State Police Western Interdiction Unit for the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of Carmelo Rojas-Perez.

Updated July 14, 2015