Co-conspirator in cocaine case sentenced to 41 months

McALLEN — A Mexican man who admitted to working with a doctor from Reynosa in a scheme to transport drugs into the U.S. was sentenced Thursday, court records show.

Jorge Montoya-Rivera received a 41-month prison sentence during his hearing before U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez.

Montoya-Rivera, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to import a controlled substance in April of this year, was the second defendant sentenced in connection with this case.

In exchange for his pleading guilty, the government agreed to have his remaining charges dismissed, which included import of a controlled substance and an additional conspiracy charge, court records show.

Montoya-Rivera’s charges stemmed from his March arrest at the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers caught Montoya-Rivera attempting to enter the country with cocaine hidden inside his vehicle.

During the inspection of Montoya-Rivera’s vehicle, CBP officers discovered 35 bundles of what was later determined to be cocaine, according to the complaint filed against Montoya-Rivera.

“The cocaine was within a hidden compartment in a vehicle attempting to make entry into the United States from Mexico,” the court record shows.

During his interview with U.S. Department of Homeland Security agents, the Mexican man said the vehicle was given to him by a doctor based in Reynosa named Dante Jaime Yoplac-Augustín, who told him he could use the vehicle in exchange for small monetary payments.

Montoya-Rivera said a few days before his scheduled attempt into the U.S., he had turned the car over to unknown “individuals” in Mexico, who then returned the vehicle to him the day he made his trip to the port of entry.

“Montoya-Rivera stated he suspected there were narcotics in the vehicle but he did not want to ask which type,” the complaint states.

The 51-year-old man, who said he was not paid for his trips into the country, other than having access to the vehicle given to him by Yoplac, told federal agents that he suspected the car was loaded with drugs, not only on this occasion, but on four previous occasions where he entered the U.S.

“Montoya-Rivera stated he did not receive monetary compensation but was allowed to use the vehicle as his own and believed that to be his payment,” the court record shows.

Yoplac, who attempted to cross into the country through the pedestrian bridge the very same day Montoya-Rivera was attempting to enter the country, was also arrested in connection with the cocaine conspiracy.

A naturalized Mexican citizen originally from Peru, Yoplac said he became involved in the conspiracy after he had accrued a debt of about 50,000 Mexican pesos, or about $2,700, with an unnamed drug cartel organization.

Yoplac stated during the hearing that his only role in the conspiracy was driving vehicles from one location to another in order to “pay down his debt.”

Yoplac, who also pleaded guilty to the federal charges against him, was sentenced to 40 months in prison for his role in the plan in early August of this year, court records show.

Montoya-Rivera, who does not have legal status to live in the country, will not serve supervised release; instead, he will be deported upon completion of his prison term.