McALLEN — A trio of defendants were sentenced Wednesday in connection with an attempt to sneak nearly 5 kilos of cocaine into the country, court records show.
U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Sandra Karyme Ramirez, 23, of Alton, and Maria Luisa Villalobos-Rodriguez, 22, of Mexico to 57 months in prison on charges of importing cocaine at a port of entry last March, court documents show. Jesus Antonio Balderas-Vasquez, 20, of Mexico was sentenced to 46 months in prison in connection with the case.
The trio were stopped and subsequently arrested at the Pharr-Reynosa International bridge as they attempted to enter the port while Ramirez and Villalobos-Rodriguez had concealed nearly 5 kilos of cocaine on their bodies, the complaint against the three defendants stated.
During their brief time at the port, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer found answers to basic questions. Specifically, Balderas-Vasquez, the driver of the vehicle the three occupied, and Ramirez, the front passenger, gave conflicting reasons for their respective travel into the U.S.
“ (A CBP officer) questioned Balderas-Vazquez and Ramirez as to the purpose of their travel in the United States, to which they both provided different responses,” the complaint stated. “(The officer) then noticed a bulge in the abdominal area of Ramirez who was the front seat passenger.”
The group was referred for secondary inspection where the CBP officer noticed Ramirez adjusting her shirt, appearing to have something in her waist area.
After a K-9 gave an alert for narcotics, the CBP officer patted Ramirez down and discovered two packaged bricks under her shirt. Additionally, Villalobos-Rodriguez was patted down, leading to two bricks under her shirt as well, the complaint states.
In total, the CBP officer seized 4.36 kilos of what was later determined to be cocaine.
During an interview with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations agents, the two women admitted they received the four bricks of cocaine at a residence in Reynosa and were to deliver the drugs to a man in the U.S. and receive a cash payment afterward.
“ Ramirez and Villalobos-Rodriguez stated once they crossed into the United States through the port of entry, they would receive information about where to meet a man to deliver the cocaine bricks, and in exchange the man would provide them with payment for their services,” the complaint stated.
Ramirez admitted to smuggling cocaine into the country at least once before.
The driver, Balderas-Vazquez, told authorities he was approached by the women in Reynosa a week before and was paid $200 for driving them into the U.S.
The man, who said he was aware the women had narcotics on them, said he was going to receive another $200 for driving them on this attempt before they got arrested.
Ramirez, who is a U.S. citizen, will also be required to serve four years of supervised release upon completion of her prison term.
Villalobos-Rodriguez and Balderas-Vazquez, who do not have legal status to remain in the country, are expected to be deported upon completion of their respective prison terms.