McALLEN — A Nuevo León man who claimed he was forced by a cartel to smuggle more than 20 kilos of cocaine was sentenced to 87 months earlier this week, court records show.
Jorge Alberto Torres Gomez stood before U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez Wednesday for his sentencing hearing related to his January arrest at the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge, after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers discovered packages of what was later determined to be cocaine.
Torres, who was accompanied by his two minor children, was referred to secondary inspection upon arriving at the port of entry Jan. 13, when a CBP officer noticed what appeared to be tampering to the undercarriage of the 2010 Dodge Journey the man was driving, court records show.
During the secondary inspection officers discovered a false compartment under the center console. Inside the compartment they found 18 packages containing cocaine, the complaint states.
After he was detained at the bridge, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations agents interviewed Torres.
During this interview, Torres claimed he was visiting the U.S. with his two sons for the purposes of doing some shopping, and that he had been asked by a person he only knew as “Rafael,” to drive the vehicle to the McAllen area, the complaint states.
He told HSI agents that the month before, in December 2017, Rafael, who claimed to be a cartel member, approached the beauty salon business owned by Torres’ wife, and told them they had to pay 10,000 pesos every month for protection from the cartel.
“Torres stated that since he did not have that amount to pay monthly he decided to close the business and relocate it within his residence,” the complaint states.
But he said that didn’t deter the man. Instead, a few days after closing his wife’s business, Rafael approached Torres outside his then-employer’s building, Pemex, where Rafael let him know that he now would have to pay 50,000 pesos a month for not cooperating, the court record states.
“Torres paid the 50,000 pesos and assumed that everything had been taken care (of),” the records states.
Torres said a week later, he received a package at his place of employment, which contained pictures of his family, and school where his kids attend.
Torres claims, as much as he tried to avoid the man, Rafael persisted, and called him the day before his arrest at the bridge and told him he would still need to drive a vehicle loaded with narcotics into the U.S.
“Torres was given instructions to bring his two sons with him on the trip and that his wife and daughter would have to stay at the residence,” the complaint states. “Torres additionally stated that the vehicle was dropped off at his residence by Rafael this morning and was told the vehicle would be tracked via GPS to ensure that he made entry into the United States.”
He told agents the man gave him $300 for traveling expenses.
Torres, who pleaded guilty to one count of import of a controlled substance in April, had the remaining three counts, conspiracy, attempted conspiracy, and possession of a controlled substance, dismissed, court record shows.
The 33-year-old man, who does not have legal authority to live in the United States, will be deported upon completion of his more than seven-year prison term.