McALLEN — A debt owed to a cartel forced a doctor from Reynosa to help smuggle cocaine into the United States, according to a criminal complaint.
Dante Jaime Yoplac-Augustín, 38, stood before U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez on Thursday and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import a controlled substance. A federal drug indictment filed against him alleges he attempted to move 38 kilos of cocaine into the country.
In exchange, the government agreed to dismiss the remaining three counts filed against him.
Yoplac was arrested March 11, 2018, by Customs and Border Protection officers working on the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge moments after another man, Jorge Montoya-Rivera, 51, was arrested attempting to drive through the port of entry with cocaine hidden within his vehicle, the complaint states. Yoplac was walking through the port when he was arrested.
Montoya-Rivera was later identified as Yoplac’s alleged co-conspirator and admitted to being paid on prior occasions to drive into the United States. He said the vehicle he was driving was registered under his name by a man he was introduced to by Yoplac in Mexico.
Despite not being compensated monetarily, he said he had made four prior trips into the country with drugs hidden within the vehicle.
“Montoya-Rivera stated he was able to use the vehicle for his personal use, due to the fact of him needing a vehicle,” the complaint states.
Yoplac, who is a naturalized Mexican citizen originally from Peru, said he became involved in the conspiracy after he had accrued a debt of about 50,000 Mexican pesos, or about $2,700, with an unnamed drug cartel organization.
He stated during the hearing that his only role in the conspiracy was driving vehicles from one location to another in order to “pay down his debt.”
“Yoplac-Augustín stated, he assumed, the only logical thing that could be in the vehicle was drugs, but he did not want to ask his employers,” the complaint states.
A week before his arrest, he said he waited for Montoya-Rivera to cross into the United States so that he could pick up the vehicle in order to move it to a different location where another unnamed person would take over the vehicle, the complaint states.
Montoya-Rivera, who remains in custody, is expected back in court by the end of May for a status hearing, court notes show.
Alvarez scheduled Yoplac’s sentencing for July 31. He faces a punishment range between 10 years and life in prison.
This is not Yoplac’s first run-in with law enforcement. In 2009, municipal police arrested him in Reynosa for being in possession of psychotropic drugs, according to a published media report.