Sentencing hearing for Houston woman accused of smuggling heroin reset

DOCS: Woman claimed she was extorted; then retracts statements

McALLEN — A Houston woman who was set to be sentenced last week will have to wait at least another month, records show.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane granted a motion for continuance for the sentencing hearing for Denise Esquivel who has pleaded guilty to drug smuggling charges, court notes show.

The continuance, which now sets Esquivel’s sentencing for Jan. 28, 2020, was the latest granted by Crane in the case, as there was a previous reset in August, records show.

Esquivel pleaded guilty to one count of import of a controlled substance on May 31, 2019; in exchange for the plea, government prosecutors agree to dismiss the remaining drug smuggling charges at the time of sentencing, including a conspiracy charge, and a distribution charge, records show.

Federal agents arrested the 24-year-old Houston woman last November at a Hidalgo port of entry after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers discovered a significant bundle of heroin inside her vehicle as she attempted to cross into the United States, the complaint against Esquivel states.

During the inspection of Esquivel’s vehicle, CBP officers found more than six kilograms of heroin inside the vehicle’s battery.

Esquivel, during her attempt to enter the country, made statements about her travel, specifically that she was on her way to Houston, Texas, and that she had traveled into Tamaulipas, Reynosa, Mexico, to eat breakfast.

“Esquivel stated while she was in Mexico she had vehicle problems and went to an AutoZone to change her vehicle battery,” the complaint states.

She said that while she was at the autoparts store, an unidentified man offered to give her a free battery in exchange for doing him a favor after she crossed into the U.S.

“Esquivel recanted her previous statements, and stated she was being extorted by unknown people to transport the vehicle battery. Esquivel assumed the battery in her vehicle contained drugs,” the complaint states.

Esquivel again retracted her previous statement, and said “I asked to start working in this.”

“Esquivel claimed she asked a friend to help her make money and she was given instructions to travel from Houston to go pick up the battery in Mexico. Esquivel was not certain how much she was being paid but estimated it would be $1,0000 for her role in this drug transaction,” court records show.