Last defendant in cocaine case sentenced

McALLEN — The final defendant in a drug conspiracy case was sentenced Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced the fifth and final defendant, Mario Gerardo Elliard-Garcia, to a 28-month prison sentence in connection with a drug conspiracy case involving the man and four others.

Elliard-Garcia, 35, joins Karla Yuliana Hernandez-Dominguez, 35; Joan Alejandro Armendariz-Fuentes, 36; Claudia Vanessa Arias-Torres, 27; and Alfonso Torres Jr., 24, all of Mexico, and all sentenced earlier this month.

Elliard-Garcia and Hernandez-Dominguez, who each pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in July, were the last two defendants to plead guilty, court records show.

On Sept. 9, Crane sentenced Hernandez-Dominguez to 33 months in prison, Armendariz-Fuentes to 46 months in prison, Arias-Torres to 46 months in prison, and Torres Jr. to 48 months in prison, records show.

Federal agents arrested the group attempting to smuggle cocaine on 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, at which point he 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 then 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 they ended the “interview.”

Ellliard-Garcia, who also gave statements to agents, acknowledged 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, who are citizens of Mexico, will not be required to serve a supervised release term after their respective prison terms; instead, they will all likely be deported.