McALLEN — In separate hearings the final two defendants involved in a scheme to smuggle more than 5 kilos of cocaine pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge, court records show.
U.S. District Judge Randy Crane accepted guilty pleas from Karla Yuliana Hernandez-Dominguez, 35, and Mario Gerardo Elliard-Garcia, 35, both of Mexico, in connection with a drug smuggling case that involved more than 5 kilograms of cocaine traveling through the county.
Hernandez-Dominguez and Elliard-Garcia are just two of the five-person group that attempted to transport cocaine north before federal agents discovered the controlled substance.
Joan Alejandro Armendariz-Fuentes, 36; Claudia Vanessa Arias-Torres, 27; and Alfonso Torres Jr., 24, all of Mexico, pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge last month.
Federal agents arrested the group March 5.
On that day Armendariz-Fuentes, and Arias-Torres crossed into the U.S. through the Pharr port of entry, with Armendariz-Fuentes as the driver, and Arias-Torres the passenger, they traveled to a Walmart in Mission.
After the women parked in the store’s parking lot, Elliard-Garcia was dropped off by Hernandez-Dominguez at the Walmart, and took possession of the vehicle.
Subsequently Elliard-Garcia drove the vehicle to a residence in McAllen, the complaint states.
Homeland Security Investigations agents, who had observed Hernandez-Dominguez and Elliard-Garcia in prior drug smuggling “events,” arrived at the residence and conducted a search of the home where they found roughly 5.04 kilograms of cocaine.
After the discovery of the cocaine, HSI agents looked for and arrested Armendariz-Fuentes, and Arias-Torres, the court document shows.
Armendariz-Fuentes, and Arias-Torres said they suspected the vehicle contained cocaine, and were shopping inside the store while “an individual” picked up the vehicle.
HSI agents then, with the cocaine in their position, set up a sting, by conducting a controlled delivery of the cocaine to a business in McAllen, where Alfonso Torres Jr., took possession of the cocaine. He was subsequently arrested, the complaint shows.
According to the complaint, Hernandez-Dominguez gave federal agents a false statement regarding where she had dropped off Elliard-Garcia to get the vehicle, was evasive, and ultimately ended the “interview.”
Ellliard-Garcia, who also gave statements to agents, acknowledged that he knew the vehicle he had picked up in the Walmart parking lot contained narcotics, and admitted to smuggling drugs in the past.
“HSI Special Agents had observed the prior drug smuggling events referenced by Eliiard within the past few weeks while on surveillance and observed Hernandez transporting Elliard to pick up load vehicles and assisting him in the prior drug smuggling events,” the complaint states.
All five defendants are scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 9, records show.