Mexican nationals accused of trying to smuggle $30,000 on flight

McALLEN — A pair of Mexican nationals face federal cash smuggling charges after arriving at a local airport in possession of nearly $30,000 in cash, records show.

Marco Antonio Rosales-Herrera and Jaime Ortiz-Murillo appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter E. Ormsby Tuesday for their respective initial hearings related to their arrest Sunday on federal charges. The charges stem from allegations they tried bypassing federal currency requirements when arriving to the country without declaring the cash.

Agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection working at the McAllen-Miller International Airport arrested the men after a check of the airplane they arrived in turned up nearly $30,000 in undeclared cash.

The passengers — Rosales-Herrera, Ortiz-Murillo and a third person, an adult female — flew in from Morelia, Mexico on a 1979 Piper Archer II airplane, records show.

The discovery of the bulk cash took place after the pair and another passenger, who was named in the complaint but ultimately not charged, made a negative declaration upon inspection from the agent, stating they did not have more than the legally allowed $10,000 in cash or less.

“After the aircraft inspection, (CBP agent) obtained a second declaration from (woman passenger) and she declared $9,800 (USD) in $100 denominations,” the complaint stated. “After (CBP agent) requested proof of ownership, Rosales-Herrera eventually stated the currency held by (the woman) belonged to him as well as an additional $9,960 USD concealed in his bag and wallet. Ortiz-Murrillo overheard the discussion and then declared $10,083 USD as his own currency.”

CBP agents discovered a total of $29,834 on all three passengers. They transported the three suspects to the Hidalgo Port of Entry.

During interviews with the subjects, the woman stated that the money belonged to Rosales-Herrera and that he had asked her to hold it for him — but she did not know why.

Ortiz-Murillo, 51, for his part, stated the cash in his possession was his, and did not belong to anyone else, despite carrying a stack of $100 bills in one pocket totaling roughly $9,600,

“Rosales-Herrera immediately claimed all responsibility and stated before arriving to the United States, he gave (the woman) and Ortiz-Murillo each $9,800 USD of his own money in $100 denominations to hold in order to avoid currency reporting requirements of currency in excess of $10,000,” the complaint stated.

The 54-year-old Mexican national said his travel companions claimed the cash as their own in order to protect him. He said he previously smuggled cash into the U.S. in the same way, and that he was issued a fine by CBP.

Rosales-Herrera and Ortiz-Murillo who were remanded into the custody of U.S. Marshals service, are due back in court Monday, for a detention hearing where the court will decide whether or not to grant the men a bond.

lzazueta@themonitor.com