Mexican man found with 400 pounds of pot sentenced

McALLEN — A Mexican national accused of attempting to smuggle marijuana into the country was sentenced Wednesday, court records show.

U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez handed down a 30-month sentence for Edgar Alberto Reyna-Riojas, who was found in possession of more than 400 pounds of marijuana as he attempted to cross a tractor trailer into the United States through a port of entry last year, court notes show.

The 24-year-old, who was attempting to enter the country on Dec. 6, 2017, at the Progreso–Nuevo Progreso International Bridge, was referred for a secondary inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, who were alerted to the potential presence of narcotics by a CBP K-9 unit, the complaint filed against Reyna-Riojas states.

During the search of the man’s tractor trailer, agents discovered anomalies in the floorboard of the attached trailer.

“During primary inbound inspection, CBP officers obtained a negative written declaration for fruits, food, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, weapons and currency over $10,000. CBPOs referred Reyna and the tractor trailer for a non-intrusive X-Ray inspection and discovered anomalies in the floor of the trailer,” the complaint states.

A search of the trailer led to the discovery of a false floor within the trailer, consisting of two compartments.

“Inside the compartments, 110 cellophane wrapped packages were discovered,” the document shows.

After securing the packages, agents determined the contents as marijuana, with a total weight of 187.43 kilograms, or 413 pounds, the complaint states.

During his interview with federal agents with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations Reyna-Riojas said he was hired by unknown persons in Mexico to move the trailer, containing what he believed to be marijuana, from Nuevo Progreso, Mexico, to Mission for $1,500. He then implicated his mother, Diana Romelia Riojas-Vazquez, as the person who coordinated the deal with the unknown people, for which she was to be compensated as well.

Riojas-Vazquez, a B1/B2 Visa holder, arrived at the international bridge looking for her son, Reyna-Riojas, but instead noticed the trailer in the secondary inspection area.

“Riojas agreed to speak with the HSI agents and CBPOs regarding Reyna’s entry into the United States,” the complaint states.

During her interview with agents, Riojas-Vazquez admitted her role in the trafficking attempt, telling them unknown persons hired her so they could use her trailer to smuggle what she suspected to be drugs into the U.S.

“Riojas stated she was paid an unknown amount for arranging the transport. Riojas stated she directed Reyna to transport the trailer into the United States,” the record shows.

Her son pleaded guilty to count 4 of the indictment against them, import of marijuana, in late February of this year — in exchange government prosecutors dismissed the remaining three counts against him, court records show.

Reyna-Riojas, who used a B1/B2 Visa in his attempt to enter the country, does not have legal status to be in the country and would be subject to deportation upon completion of his 30-month prison sentence.

Reyna-Riojas’ mother was also charged with a federal drug charges, and is expected to be sentenced later this month, court notes show.