McALLEN — A 66-year-old Mexican national will serve more than two years in prison for his role in a scheme to move more than 17 kilos of heroin into the country, court records show.
U.S. District Judge Randy Crane handed down a 34-month prison sentence to Jose Mendoza-Sierra, who was facing four federal drug charges related to his arrest at a port of entry May 25, 2017.
Mendoza-Sierra, who was arrested attempting to enter the U.S. at the Anzalduas International Bridge after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers found heroin in his vehicle, pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge in February, court records show. In exchange, the government agreed to dismiss the three other charges he faced, import of a controlled substance, conspiracy to distribute, and possession of a controlled substance, court records show.
Mendoza-Sierra, who told CBP officers he was entering the country to purchase motorcycle parts, was accompanied by one passenger, 64-year-old Bernardo Hipolito Mendoza-Sierra, court records show.
During the inspection, CBP officers conducted an open air K-9 search of the utility trailer attached to Mendoza-Sierra’s vehicle, which led to an alert near the axle of the aforementioned trailer.
“Further inspection of (Mendoza-Sierra’s) vehicle resulted in the discovery of six bundles of powdery substance, which field-tested positive for properties of heroin, weighing approximately 17.38 kilograms,” the complaint states.
After the discovery of the narcotics, Mendoza-Sierra spoke with federal agents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations, and initially stated he and Bernardo were headed to South Texas to meet up with someone, but changed his story and admitted the two were headed to Atlanta, Georgia, to pick up various “commodities” to be exported from the U.S., the complaint states.
He originally said the vehicle and trailer were his, but then recanted and said both were provided to him by his employer, for the purposes of moving commodities within the U.S. and back to Mexico.
“(Mendoza-Sierra) stated he was to be paid $1,000 of which he would give Bernardo Mendoza-Sierra $300,” the record states.
Bernardo, who said he was not going to be paid for the trip, initially said he was traveling with Mendoza-Sierra to Las Milpas, in South Texas, but later told them they weren’t traveling to Las Milpas, instead the pair was headed to Georgia to drop off the utility trailer at an unknown location in Atlanta, and then leave it there for three days before returning to Mexico, the complaint states.
Bernardo had the indictment against him dismissed in February of this year after the government decided not to prosecute him, court records show.
Mendoza-Sierra, who does not have legal authority to live in the U.S., did not receive supervised release terms, and will be deported upon completion of his prison term.