Feds: Van headed to Reynosa contained $1.2M cash

A pair of Mexican citizens who were found at what federal authorities believe is a money stash house made their respective initial appearance in federal court Thursday, records show.

Miguel Galarza Bueno, 46, and Angelica Maria Bueno Villa, 24, made their respective appearance before U.S. Magistrate Peter E. Ormsby in connection with federal money smuggling charges for their alleged roles in the smuggling of more than $1.2 million, records show.

The two suspects were arrested Nov. 13 after U.S. Homeland Security Homeland Securities Investigations agents executed a search warrant at a residence in the 3900 block of Teal Avenue in McAllen. The search was related to surveillance of two other people who later were identified as co-conspirators in a money smuggling scheme.

Ten days earlier, HSI agents were surveilling the co-conspirators, identified as only “Lozano” and “Ibarra,” who arrived in a “Peugeot Partner van” at a McDonald’s parking on Nolana Avenue in McAllen.

“At the McDonald’s parking lot, the driver and passenger of the Peugeot, later identified as Lozano and Ibarra, additional co-conspirators, exited the vehicle and switch vehicles with a male and female, later identified and believed to be (Galarza and Bueno),” the complaint stated.

Galarza and Bueno subsequently entered the Peugeot, and drove to a residence in the 3900 block of Teal Avenue, entering the residence’s garage and closing it.

Roughly an hour later, federal agents observed Galarza and Bueno enter the Peugeot and leave the residence; arriving at a Target parking lot on Nolana Avenue. Galarza and Bueno were observed switching vehicles with Lozano and Ibarra, who arrived in a red Buick.

Galarza and Bueno drove the red Buick back to the residence in the 3900 block of Teal Avenue.

The Peugeot, driven by Lozano and Ibarra, made its way to the Progreso port of entry, attempting to enter Mexico.

CBP officers, who asked Lozano and Ibarra about any declarations, eventually found 107 wrapped bundles containing U.S. currency totaling nearly $1.3 million.

“Once the negative declaration was obtained for all items, the Peugeot was further inspected and agents located a compartment in the floorboard area of the Peugeot, with approximately, $1,294,887 in U.S. currency,” the court record shows.

Lozano and Ibarra were interviewed by federal agents regarding the money found inside the vehicle.

During the interviews, Lozano admitted to switching vehicles with Galarza and Bueno on Nov. 3, but did not provide names, the record shows.

He said he had made similar contact with the pair on prior occasions, stating he was paid to transport U.S. currency to Mexico. Ibarra told agents they were supposed to take the Peugeot to Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico.

After the raid on the residence on Teal Avenue on Nov. 13, Bueno spoke with agents and admitted to being paid to count money at the residence.

“Bueno stated Galarza would help her count the currency. Bueno stated they would each be paid approximately $500 U.S. a week for their role in counting the money,” the complaint stated. “Bueno stated unknown individuals would arrive at the residence and deliver the currency for Bueno and Galarza to count.”

Agents discovered rubber bands, latex gloves, cellophane, grease, ledgers, numerous cell phones — and roughly $80,000 in cash.

Galarza, who Bueno claims is her cousin, declined to speak to agents.

The pair will be back before a magistrate judge Tuesday for a detention hearing, court notes show.