Mexican man who claims he was forced into smuggling gets 37 months

McALLEN — A Mexican man who claimed he was forced to smuggle cocaine for a drug cartel was sentenced to federal prison Monday morning.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Williams Gaston Aragonez Vargas to 37 months in prison for his role in an attempt to smuggle more than 5 kilos of cocaine into the country, court records show.

Aragonez, 26, was arrested May 30 at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers discovered packages of cocaine within the vehicle he was driving.

The man, who presented a valid border crossing card, was alone in a blue Volkswagen Jetta with Mexican license plates when he approached the port.

During the initial inspection, Aragonez stated he ran a flea market business in Mexico, and was traveling into the country, which he did routinely, to purchase more product for the business, according to the complaint filed against the man.

“Aragonez stated the vehicle he was driving belongs to him and only his grandfather has access to it. Aragonez further stated he by himself drove the vehicle from his home in Mexico to the United States,” the complaint states.

After a search of the Jetta resulted in the discovery of packages of cocaine within the vehicle’s center console, Aragonez changed his story, and said that in fact, he had been threatened to smuggle the narcotics into the U.S.

He said that about 15 days prior, members of an unknown drug cartel “kidnapped” him and told him he would have to smuggle narcotics for them, court records show.

Days later, he said he was paid $300 to move an unknown narcotic into the U.S.

“A few days after that, (exact date unknown), (Aragonez) drove into the United States with an unknown type or quantity of narcotics. Aragonez subsequently parked a vehicle at the La Plaza Mall, and took a bus back to Mexico before returning to the U.S. hours later to pick up his vehicle,” the complaint shows.

He told authorities the cartel had installed a GPS transponder in the vehicle, along with a camera and microphone, to keep tabs on him.

He said that he was beaten by cartel members on one occasion, after they saw him act nervously when he was speaking to a CBP officer.

“Due to Aragonez’s nervousness, cartel members struck him several times on his buttocks via a piece of wood,” the complaint states. Aragonez stated he didn’t have any bruises from being struck. Aragonez suspected there was GPS and or audio equipment in his vehicle currently.”

Aragonez said he was asked on May 28 to make another trip into the U.S., but that he wouldn’t be paid this time, as punishment for his prior nervousness in front of the CBP officer.

Because Aragonez does not have legal status to be in the U.S., he will be deported upon completion of his prison sentence, court records show.