McALLEN — A search of a Mexican woman’s vehicle’s gas tank led to the discovery of more than 24 kilos of cocaine and several years in prison sentence, court records show.
Ana Gabriel Perez-Garcia stood before U.S. District Judge Randy Crane on Thursday for a sentencing hearing related to her arrest at a port of entry last month.
Crane sentenced Perez-Garcia to nearly six years in federal prison for her role in an attempt to smuggle 24.4 kilos of cocaine into the country by concealing it in the gas tank of a vehicle she was driving, court records show.
The Mexican national’s Jan. 31 arrest took place on the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge as she attempted to cross into the United States, according to the complaint filed against her.
During a secondary inspection, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers conducted an X-ray scan of the woman’s vehicle which led to the discovery of anomalies near the rear of the vehicle.
“A CBP K-9 narcotics detection team conducted a free air inspection which resulted in a positive alert for the odor narcotics emanating from the vehicle,” the document read.
The alert from the K-9 led to a more thorough search of the woman’s vehicle.
“A physical search of the vehicle discovered a trapdoor leading to the gas tank of the vehicle,” according to the the document. “Inside the gas tank 20 vacuum-sealed and cellophane wrapped packages were discovered.”
Upon inspection of the packages, CBP officers determined the contents tested positive for the characteristics of cocaine; in total, officers seized 24.4 kilos of cocaine.
After the discovery of the illicit contents, Perez-Garcia was interviewed by federal agents with U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations, in which she denied knowing about the nearly 25 kilos of cocaine in her vehicle.
“… (Perez-Garcia) denied any knowledge of the cocaine concealed within the vehicle,” the document read. “(Perez-Garcia) gave inconsistent statements during the interview. (Perez-Garcia) stated the vehicle was owned by her.”
In August 2018, Perez-Garcia pleaded guilty to the second count of the complaint against her — import of a controlled substance.
Government prosecutors, in exchange, agreed to dismiss the remaining charges against Perez-Garcia, which included two conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance charges, and one count of distribution of a controlled substance, records show.
Perez-Garcia — a Mexican citizen with a B1/B2 visa, a temporary, non-immigrant visa — will likely be deported upon completion of her 70-month prison term.