Farm foreman convicted of cocaine possession gets 10 years

McALLEN — A farm foreman convicted last summer on a drug distribution charge will spend 10 years in prison.

The sentence was handed down Thursday in federal court. A federal jury found Leonel Luis Nordhausen-Cuevas guilty in July 2017 of one count — selling, distributing or dispensing of narcotics — after U.S. Border Patrol agents found about 50 kilos of cocaine in his possession, according to court records. He was acquitted of the second charge he was facing — conspiracy to distribute narcotics.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa sentenced the 59-year-old man to 120 months in prison, with an additional five years of probation upon his release, court records show.

Nordhausen-Cuevas, a legal permanent resident, was arrested in early 2016 by agents working near Rio Grande City. They had observed activity near the river landing, according to the complaint filed in federal court.

According to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Nordhausen-Cuevas is expected to face the loss of his legal status in the United States and deportation proceedings following his release from prison.

The Mission resident’s problems began on March 11, 2016, at about 10 a.m., when agents working near StarrCo Farms, south of La Grulla, noticed a white pickup truck driving toward the river landing. This is the same truck agents had spotted an hour earlier on the farm’s property, according to the criminal complaint.

“Nordhausen-Cuevas was seen picking up something and loading it inside his vehicle,” the complaint read. “Nordhausen-Cuevas then got back into his vehicle and headed toward the StarrCo Farm headquarters. Agents then observed Nordhausen-Cuevas arrive at the farm headquarters, park near a metal building and entered inside.”

The agents, after watching as Nordhausen-Cuevas quickly exited the metal building and re-entered his truck, followed him a short distance before he stopped and exited his vehicle, the complaint states.

“Nordhausen-Cuevas stated that he was looking for a man by the name of ‘Martin’ whom was driving his white truck and then fled on foot when Border Patrol agents arrived at the scene,” the complaint states. “Agents began to investigate the initial area and stated that there was no other sign indicating the presence of another subject fleeing from the truck.”

After Nordhausen-Cuevas gave agents permission to search his truck, they discovered 25 kilos of cocaine wrapped into rectangular bricks inside a white fertilizer bag, the complaint states.

Nordhausen-Cuevas, who was employed with StarrCo Farms in charge of the farm irrigation pumps located along the riverbank, also gave agents consent to search the headquarters building. This is where they discovered a second fertilizer bag, containing approximately 25 kilos of cocaine, and a .22 caliber rifle, according to the complaint.

Nordhausen-Cuevas will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future, according to a news release.