Sentencing hearing set for Mexican national in cocaine trailer case

McALLEN — A Mexican national who admitted to his role in using a tractor trailer in an attempt to smuggle 75 kilos of cocaine into the country is scheduled to be sentenced, court records show.

Cristian Guillermo Bautista-Reyes, 23, who pleaded guilty to one count of a four-count indictment in connection with federal drug charges last July, is scheduled for sentencing Wednesday, according to court notes.

During a re-arraignment hearing Nov. 29, Bautista-Reyes stood before U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez and, records show, pleaded guilty to a federal drug import charge.

In exchange for his plea, government prosecutors agreed to dismiss the remaining three counts against him.

Bautista-Reyes was arrested in late June of last year, when he was stopped attempting to enter the U.S. at the Progreso-Nuevo Progreso International Bridge.

During that encounter, Bautista-Reyes was driving a 2005 tractor trailer, which was registered to a Matamoros man named Edelmiro Melendez Herebia, according to the complaint filed against Bautista-Reyes.

At the port, Bautista-Reyes presented U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers with a B1/B2 Visa card, along with paperwork describing the empty trailer that he was bringing into the U.S.

Before he presented the legal documents, CBP officers noted the man was driving the tractor in a “jolting” manner, leading to suspicions that Bautista-Reyes was doing this intentionally to prevent the X-ray machine from properly scanning his vehicle — a common tactic used by people attempting to confuse the scanner, the complaint states.

“During the ‘jolting’ the tractor trailer collided with a concrete beam near the checkpoint. At that point, CBP officers had a mobile X-ray unit scan the tractor trailer,” the document shows. “An X-ray of the trailer revealed what appeared to be anomalies on the driver’s side of the cabin.”

CBP officers used a narcotics dog to conduct an inspection of the trailer, leading to an alert from the K-9 within the interior of the cabin walls, just behind the driver’s seat.

After CBP officers removed a vent from the aforementioned general area, they found “multiple rectangular bricks,” the record shows.  

In all, CBP officers found 60 packages from the interior walls of the tractor trailer cabin, with an approximate weight of 75 kilograms, the court record shows.

Special agents with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations subsequently interviewed Bautista-Reyes in connection with the discovery.

“Post Miranda, Bautista stated that he was contracted by ‘Beli,’ a coordinator for the ‘Mel-Her’ trucking company, to drop an empty trailer off just north of the Progreso (port of entry),” the document states.

But the complaint states Bautista-Reyes gave different, conflicting versions of how he was contracted to transport the empty trailer to the U.S.

Federal agents explained to Bautista that it would be in his best interest to be honest and cooperate with them.

During the interview, Bautista-Reyes made several statements that appeared suspicious, including when he told agents, ‘If I give you information, how can you help me,’” the document states.

Despite this warning, Bautista-Reyes continued to convey “basic” information about his employment, nor was he able to give agents the name of his supervisor, fellow employees, and stated he only knew nicknames for people employed at “Mel-Her,” the record shows.

In addition, the Mexican national displayed signs of nervousness throughout the interview, and never denied the fact that he was concealing information about the individuals that asked him to transport the empty trailer.

“He continuously rubbed his hands together and sighed as if he wanted to speak, but would then rub his face and hair and then hang his shoulders and look down. Bautista would continuosly ask how (the special agent) could help him if he provided information,” the court record stated.

Bautista-Reyes, who has been in federal custody since his arrest June 27, faces up to 10 years in prison during the sentencing hearing.