McALLEN — A local man pleaded guilty to a federal drug distribution charge Monday despite claiming a drug cartel had forced him to do so.
Standing before U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa, Adan Eduardo Berrones Moncivais pleaded guilty to a distribution of marijuana charge, in connection with his April 4 arrest in a Hidalgo parking lot after local police officers found him loading a box truck with hundreds of pounds of marijuana.
In exchange for his guilty plea, the government agreed to dismiss his remaining charge, conspiracy to distribute marijuana, court records show.
Berrones, a legal U.S. citizen who resides in Reynosa, was arrested after a city of Hidalgo police officer noticed an open storm drain cover that was uncovered within the parking lot, which is in an area known for human and drug smuggling because of its proximity to the Rio Grande River, the complaint states.
That’s when the officer noticed the box truck parked near the uncovered storm drain and a strong odor of marijuana emanating from the truck.
“(The officer) walked over toward the storm drain cover and looked under the truck,” the court document states. “(The officer) noticed that the box truck had an opening in the bottom of the truck that was uncovered, and was able to see bundles of marijuana inside the box truck through the opening.”
Moments later, after he called for additional officers, the officer discovered Berrones after opening the unsecured door of the box truck.
In all, officers seized nearly 900 pounds of marijuana inside more than 240 packages, the complaint states.
“(Berrones) advised agents that he was asked by an unidentified (person) to get into the box truck and load the box truck with the marijuana,” the complaint states. “(Berrones) advised agents he was informed by the unknown person that the truck had a hole in the bottom … and the marijuana would be given to him from somewhere in the ground.”
Berrones, despite telling agents he agreed to help in exchange for money, stated he did not know how much he was going to be paid for his role.
The 23-year-old man is due back before Hinojosa for sentencing on Aug. 16, where he faces between five and 40 years in prison.