McALLEN — It’s quite common for a trip into Mexico to lead to a bounty of food. But for one man attempting to enter the United States through a port of entry with Mexican-brand cans of hominy, it ended with his arrest.
Vicente Cruz-Vasquez, a Mexican national, was denied bond during his detention hearing Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter E. Ormsby in connection with charges that he attempted to smuggle into the U.S. more than 13 kilos of methamphetamine within cans of hominy.
On Aug. 31, Cruz-Vasquez, attempted to enter the country at the Donna-Rio Bravo International bridge, where he presented a Mexican passport that had a temporary legal permanent residence stamp; he also claimed ownership of the vehicle he was driving, a 2004 Ford pickup truck.
The 52-year-old man, who claimed he was traveling back to Houston after a three-day trip to San Luis Potosi, Mexico, was referred to a secondary inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers after noticing the cans of hominy.
“The CBP officer observed a can of Mexican-brand hominy ‘El Mexicano maiz blanco,’ with a label indicating a weight of 3.01 kilograms. The CBP officer lifted the can and realized that it seemed heavier than 3.01 kilograms,” the complaint states.
During the secondary inspection a CBP officer noticed an anomaly on the side of the can, just underneath the label. The officer also shook the can, but did not feel movement within the can, and noticed a substance in the center of the can after he removed the label, the court record shows.
After testing the inside of the can CBP officers determined the substance inside the cans was meth.
“CBP officers removed approximately four cans of liquid methamphetamine from the cab of the pickup truck,” the complaint states.
In all, CBP officers seized 13.88 kilograms of meth from Cruz-Vasquez, the court record shows.
Despite telling CBP officers he was in Mexico visiting family, officers did not find any luggage, or bags of clothes inside his truck, and instead the man told officers he was “asked” to transport the four cans of hominy by his friend, Antonio Sanchez-Vega, earlier that day because he did not have enough room in this vehicle.
“Sanchez-Vega had given him four cans of hominy and asked him to transport the cans from his home in San Luis Potosi, to Houston, TX,” the record states. “Cruz-Vasquez finally stated that Sanchez-Vega was going to meet up with him at the residence in Houston to pick up the cans of hominy.”
Later that evening, after CBP officers issued a “broadcast” to all law enforcement regarding Sanchez-Vega’s vehicle, a Victoria County sheriff’s deputy conducted a traffic stop on a 2005 Chevrolet Silverado, driven by a man identified as Sanchez-Vega.
During the search of Sanchez-Vega’s vehicle, the deputy discovered four cans of hominy, identical to the ones found on Cruz-Vasquez, the complaint states.
“Shortly after being arrested, Sanchez-Vega was interviewed by special agents from the Corpus Christi (U.S. Homeland Security Investigations) office,” the record states.
Sanchez-Vega told federal agents during that interview that he had smuggled the cans of hominy for an individual in Houston, but still denied knowing Cruz-Vasquez.
“During a search of his phone, it was discovered that Sanchez-Vega had made calls to Cruz-Vasquez,” the record shows.
On Tuesday Sanchez-Vega made his initial appearance in Corpus Christi before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jason B. Libby, and was scheduled to appear for his own detention hearing Friday morning, court records show.