McALLEN — A Reynosa man was sentenced Thursday to more than three years in prison for his role in smuggling cocaine.
Edwin Fernan Lopez De Leon, 20, stood before U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa for sentencing related to his August 2017 arrest when U.S. Border Patrol agents found him in possession of more than 40 kilos of cocaine as he attempted to cross into the U.S.
Hinojosa, after reviewing the elements of the case and adjusting Lopez’s role in the smuggling attempt, handed down a 37-month sentence.
Lopez was arrested on Aug. 16, 2017, when Border Patrol agents working near the Rio Grande River in McAllen, observed three people, who appeared to be carrying backpacks, running from a brushy area just north of the river.
The trio was found after agents deployed a K9 officer to determine their location.
Lopez along with Rolando Lara-Garcia, 24, and Rafael Chena-Garcia, 29, both of Mexico, were all found in possession of backpacks, which had contained what was originally thought to be methamphetamine inside but was later determined to be cocaine, the complaint states.
According to the complaint, Lara was also found to be in possession of caltrops, improvised metal spikes often used by smugglers to impede agents’ pursuit.
Chena-Garcia, who was previously deported from the U.S., told agents he was recruited in Reynosa to smuggle drugs into the U.S.; in exchange, he would not be charged the fee required to be smuggled into the country.
Lara and Chena-Garcia, in May, pleaded guilty to their respective charges and were subsequently sentenced to 42 months, and 120 months in prison respectively, with only Chena-Lara receiving an additional five years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term.
At his sentencing, a remorseful Lopez apologized to the court.
He said he worked in Reynosa with his mother, working as a snack and taco vendor, to provide for his two younger siblings.
“I did it for my family,” Lopez said in Spanish through an interpreter. “It seemed easy.”
The court addressed Lopez, remarking on his young age and the long life ahead of him but that he’ll have to “pay the price” for what he did.
Lopez, who has been in custody since his arrest last August, will receive nearly a year of credit for time served toward the 37-month sentence.