Man who hid meth stuffed in tires gets 14 years

The federal courthouse at Bentsen Tower, located on Bicentennial Boulevard in McAllen, is seen in this August 2018 file photo. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

McALLEN — A Mexican man who was headed to Dallas and found with more than 60 kilograms of methamphetamine was sentenced to 14 years in prison, court records show.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane handed down a 168-month federal prison sentence for Sergio Francisco Fernandez-Cruz, 47 of Mexico, during a hearing Wednesday morning, according to court notes.

READ THE COMPLAINT

Fernandez-Cruz had been in the custody of the U.S. Marshals since his arrest at the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge on June 17, 2018. He was detained and subsequently arrested after further inspection of his vehicle led to the discovery of the illicit narcotics.

During his attempt to cross into the U.S., Fernandez-Cruz was referred for a secondary inspection by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer, who noted that the man’s hands were shaking during the initial primary stop at the port of entry.

He told CBP officers he was headed into the U.S. to a hardware store, specifically to return items he had purchased from Home Depot, according to the court record.

“A more intensive inspection was conducted with a gamma ray machine where anomalies were discovered in the four tire areas of the vehicle,” the complaint against Fernandez-Cruz stated.

CBP officers also used a K-9, “Lina,” who alerted them to the tires of the vehicle. Further inspection of the vehicle led to the discovery of 24 packages concealed within the vehicle. The packages weighed roughly 61.76 kilograms, and contained what was later identified as methamphetamine.

During Fernandez-Cruz’s interview with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations agents, he waived his Miranda rights and agreed to speak with agents.

“Fernandez-Cruz said the he was the owner of the vehicle. (He) stated that he did not know what type of drugs he was transporting but he thought he was transporting drugs,” the complaint stated.

He also admitted that this was his third trip attempting to enter the U.S. with Dallas as the destination.

“Fernandez-Cruz said he was going to be paid $500 USD to take the vehicle into the United States from Mexico to Dallas, Texas, and park it at a hotel overnight,” the document stated.

The Mexican national, who pleaded guilty to the import of a controlled substance charge on Oct. 18, 2018, had the remaining three charges — attempt/conspiracy to distribute controlled substance; conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance; and sell, distribute, or dispense a controlled substance — dismissed, according to records.

Fernandez-Cruz, who does not have legal status to remain in the country, will likely be deported upon completion of his prison sentence.