Teacher gets 3 years for smuggling attempt in Mission

McALLEN — A middle school teacher from Mexico was sentenced to 37 months in prison Friday in connection with an attempt to smuggle cocaine into the country.

Antonio Alaniz-Moreno, 31, who was arrested last July at the Anzalduas International Bridge in Mission after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers found more than 20 kilos of cocaine stuffed in the back of his vehicle, stood before U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa Friday for his sentencing hearing.

On July 7, 2017, Alaniz-Moreno was traveling from Mexico into McAllen, along with his wife and young daughter, to go shopping for the 2-year-old girl when a CBP officer noticed the man was “overly talkative, and had a nervous demeanor,” the complaint states.

The vehicle and its occupants were consequently referred for a subsequent inspection.

Alaniz-Moreno, his wife and daughter all had valid documentation to enter the country.

“During the X-ray, (a) CBP officer noticed anomalies within the vehicle’s seats,” the complaint states. “(The CBP officer) then referred the vehicle to secondary inspection for a physical inspection of the area in question.”

During the secondary inspection officers noticed several packages within the vehicle, the complaint states.

“The packages were wrapped in brown tape containing a white powdery substance, which was field-tested and was positive for the characteristics of cocaine,” the complaint further reads. “CBP officers removed a total of 20 packages in total from the front and middle row, passenger and driver-side seats.“

The cocaine was weighed and reported to be 22.02 kilograms.

When Alaniz-Moreno spoke with federal authorities, he stated that three months earlier he had met through a friend in Monterrey a man who told him he would buy him a vehicle with the “purpose of transporting illicit drugs to the United States from Monterrey,” the court record states.

Despite not knowing what drug he was going to be smuggling, Alaniz-Moreno said he was told he would be paid $1,000 in U.S. currency.

“Alaniz-Moreno further stated that he was undergoing (a) financial hardship and that he saw an opportunity to make money to support his family,” the criminal complaint reads.

The man also said he had successfully crossed into the United States with narcotics on at least five different prior occasions.

Federal authorities also interviewed Alaniz-Moreno’s wife, who stated she had no awareness of her husband’s arrangement to smuggle cocaine.

Citing the defendant’s education, supportive family in attendance for the hearing and his career teaching middle school biology, Hinojosa asked Alaniz-Moreno why he had decided to smuggle drugs into the country.

“I got involved with the wrong people in Mexico,” Alaniz-Moreno said standing before Hinojosa. “I’m ashamed for what I did; I apologize to the U.S., to my country, to my family, and I’m sorry for shaming my father.”

Hinojosa reminded Alaniz-Moreno that he was lucky that the prison sentence wasn’t more severe.

“The court was very generous considering the circumstances today,” Hinojosa said. “I hope (after the sentence) you get back to Mexico and make it a great country.”