Houston man tried to hide meth in gas tank

McALLEN — A Houston man was sentenced this week to more than 11 years for an attempt to smuggle in more than 30 kilos of meth, court records show.

Joshua Jay Cazares stood before U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez for sentencing, which stems from attempting to smuggle more than 30 kilos of methamphetamine into the U.S. last April.

Alvarez sentenced Cazares to 140 months in prison, with three years of supervised release upon the completion of his prison term, court records show.

Cazares pleaded guilty to count 1 of the indictment against him in August of last year. In exchange, the government, according to records, agreed to dismiss the remaining attempt/conspiracy charge filed against him.

The 22-year-old man was arrested after attempting to conceal 31.62 kilos of meth inside the gas tank of a vehicle he was driving back to Houston, according to the criminal complaint filed against him.

Cazares, who was attempting to get back into the United States through the Anzalduas International Bridge, told U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the port that he spent three days vacationing in Mexico in Reynosa, records show.

After making declarations that he did not have any contraband in the vehicle, CBP officers referred Cazares for a secondary inspection, where officers found the undercarriage of the vehicle to be cleaner than expected.

“During the secondary inspection, CBPOs inspected the vehicle and observed that the undercarriage (gas tank) area was clean,” the complaint states. “CBPOs also noticed that the gas tank’s bolts were clean with visible signs of tampering. A K-9 officer alerted to the odor of narcotics in the vehicle. An X-ray examination of the vehicle revealed anomalies within the gas tank.”

Officers called over an “on-duty contractor,” to remove the gas tank from the vehicle.

While that was happening, Cazares “freely spoke” to CBP officers, telling them he purchased the vehicle, a 2009 Chevrolet Camaro, about a year prior in April 2016 from a man named Eric Bocanegra — the son of his father’s friend and co-worker — and had conveniently made his last payment on the car the day before, the complaint states.

“Cazares said he had been making payments until he paid the vehicle off in full on April 28, 2017,” the complaint states.

He said Bocanegra personally drove the Camaro to Houston, turning over ownership to Cazares.

“Cazares said he had been planning a trip and when he obtained the car, drove it from Houston to Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico, claiming to cross into Mexico three days prior to April 28, 2017,” the complaint states.

A search of Cazares revealed he had four cellphones in his possession.

Cazares’ four cellphones were also searched and revealed “messages from Cazares discussing the purchase and resale of various drugs with contacts located within the phones,” the court documents state.

“One cellular telephone contained a screen saver of Cazares brandishing what appeared to be a semi-automatic rifle,” documents further state. “Cazares had text messages indicating he could not pay his rent but would be able to obtain money to for it Monday.”

Ultimately, the on-duty contractor removed the gas tank from the Camaro and was found to contain liquid methamphetamine mixed with gasoline.

Agents with U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations were called and attempted to interview Cazares, but he declined to speak without an attorney present.