McALLEN — A U.S. District Judge sentenced a Rio Grande City teen to 18 months in prison for his role in a drug operation.
For Dario Martinez, 18, his troubles began after the promise of fast cash was too tempting to turn down.
On Tuesday, he learned the consequences of agreeing to accept $1,600 in exchange for his services as a driver of a drug load.
Standing alongside his attorney, the teen, who was facing up to two years in prison, read a prepared statement to the court.
“By doing that job I thought I could get easy money,” Martinez said as he addressed U.S. District Judge Randy Crane. “I understand now this is the situation my parents didn’t want me to be in.”
Martinez will serve 18 months in federal prison after he pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of conspiracy to distribute marijuana.
In exchange for his guilty plea, federal prosecutors dropped Martinez’s other charge, possession of marijuana with intent to sell and distribute, according to court records.
Martinez’s charges stem from an encounter on Jan. 9, when U.S. Border Patrol agents, using a blimp-like device called an aerostat to survey an area near apartments on Trophy Street in Rio Grande City, witnessed people loading bundles into a black SUV, according to the criminal complaint.
“Marked BP units responded to the area and located the suspected vehicle at the corner of the DPS Apartments and Trophy Street,” the complaint states.
When the agents activated their lights, the SUV attempted to elude them eventually coming to a stop at the Rio Grande, the complaint states.
“Prior to reaching the river agents observed two bundles of narcotics being thrown from the vehicle,” court records show.
Agents pursued the two suspected drug traffickers but one escaped into Mexico. The other suspect, who was later identified as Martinez, was found about 10 yards away from the SUV, the complaint states.
Martinez, during his interrogation with agents, admitted to being the driver of the SUV after two men in a Chevrolet Tahoe SUV approached him and offered him $1,600 to load and drive a vehicle full of drug bundles.
“Martinez stated he agreed and entered the Tahoe with the two men,” the record shows. “Martinez stated he was driven to the Watermill station where he was instructed to enter the load into the vehicle and drive to DPS Apartments on Trophy Street and wait for some men to wave him to take the bundles.”
Martinez told agents he saw the men who waved him down, drove to them, at which time they loaded the SUV with four bundles of marijuana, the complaint states.
Agents eventually recovered more than 230 pounds of marijuana, the complaint states.
His attorney, citing the teen’s extreme remorse for his role in the conspiracy, argued for home confinement instead of prison but was ultimately denied.
Martinez, who dropped out of high school in the 10th grade, said he hoped to obtain his GED while in prison.
Martinez must surrender to the U.S. Marshals services by May 30 to begin his sentence.