McAllen man, Mexican national sentenced in cocaine trafficking case

McALLEN — Two local men were sentenced Tuesday for their respective roles in a cocaine conspiracy.

Alfredo Sanchez, 39, of McAllen, and Miguel Cruz-Villegas, 30, a Mexican national residing in the Rio Grande Valley, faced U.S. District Judge Randy Crane on Tuesday morning for their sentencing hearings related to the movement of more than 15 kilos of cocaine.

Crane sentenced Sanchez to 120 months and Cruz-Villegas to 32 months in prison. Sentences were related to their admitted roles in a drug trafficking plot to transport cocaine in the Rio Grande Valley.

Sanchez and Cruz-Villegas each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, the first count in their indictment, in December of last year, court records show.

As part of their respective plea deals with the government, both Sanchez and Cruz-Villegas had the second count against them dismissed at their sentencing.

Their respective charges and subsequent prison sentences stem from a Drug Enforcement Administration investigation in March 2017, when agents from the McAllen district office received information about Cruz-Villegas’ participation in a drug trafficking ring that was moving drugs through U.S. ports of entry in the Valley, records show.

Agents working on the information provided to them about Cruz-Villegas’ involvement as a drug courier, found records showing he had crossed through the ports of entry driving a pickup truck with Mexican license plates nearly 10 times that month alone, the complaint filed against him states.

“Database indices checks on Cruz during March 2017 indicated that Cruz frequently crossed into the U.S through the Roma, Texas (port of entry)” the complaint states. “During March of 2017, Cruz previously crossed in this Silverado on nine prior occasions.”

Agents learned that at about 10:30 a.m. on March 21, 2017, Cruz-Villegas, an adult female and a minor child, had crossed into the U.S. inside a Silverado pickup truck through the Roma port of entry.

According to the complaint, nearly an hour later DEA agents observed Cruz-Villegas, the woman, and the child, arrive at the parking garage at the La Plaza Mall in McAllen, and head inside one of the department stores.

Agents then watched as Sanchez approached the unoccupied pickup truck in the parking garage, enter the vehicle, and drive off.

“Agents subsequently maintained surveillance of Sanchez as he drove through McAllen,” the record shows. “As agents followed Sanchez, agents observed Sanchez make multiple abrupt lane changes that are typical of counter surveillance maneuvers performed by narcotics traffickers.”

At about noon, at the behest of the DEA agents, a Hidalgo County constable pulled Sanchez over.

“Following a positive K-9 alert to narcotics in the vehicle, agents located approximately 15.5 kilograms of cocaine concealed within the rear driver’s side door of the Silverado,” the complaint states.

Sanchez, who was also found in possession of two cell phones, declined to speak to agents without an attorney present.

“Sanchez stated both phones were his; however, he only knew the number to one of the phones,” the record shows.

According to one of the DEA agents who spoke during the sentencing hearing Tuesday, Sanchez admitted to moving cocaine on prior occasions in subsequent meetings with DEA agents and his attorney.

Sanchez, a U.S. citizen, will also be required to serve an additional five years of supervised release after he completes his prison term.

Cruz-Villegas, a Mexican national, will most likely be deported upon completion of his 32-month prison term.

lzazueta@themonitor.com