Mexican man gets lengthy prison sentence for trying to move meth

McALLEN — A Mexican man was sentenced last week to a 210-month prison sentence for his part in attempting to smuggle more than 40 kilos of methamphetamine into the country, records show.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Ramon Torres-Zurita on Jan. 14 to more than 17 years in prison nearly three months after he agreed to plead guilty to import of a controlled substance. The case is related to an attempt to enter the country in August 2019.

Torres was arrested on Aug. 24, 2019 after attempting to enter the country at the port of entry in Rio Grande City when a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer noted the Mexican man had been flagged in the computer system as someone known to associate with drug traffickers, the complaint against Torres stated.

“During the inspection process at the primary booth, Torres was recognized by a Customs and Border Protection Officer as having been involved in a failed smuggling attempt of a multi-kilogram load of crystal methamphetamine where one of Torres’ associates was arrested, charged, and convicted for attempting to smuggle the load via the Rio Grande City, Texas Port of Entry. Torres also had CBP database lookouts as a suspected narcotics trafficker,” the complaint stated.

An X-ray of Torres’ vehicle led CBP officers to discover more than 20 packages hidden within the tires of the vehicle he was driving.

After the hit on the database, Torres was referred for a secondary inspection, during which Torres admitted to his role in the smuggling attempt.

“Torres admitted to agents that he was hired to transport what he believed was ‘drugs’ in the four tires of his personally owned vehicle to Houston, Texas, for a fee,” the document stated. “Torres stated he agreed with an individual from Mexico to smuggle the load of drugs into the United States and had previously successfully smuggled several other loads.”

Originally, Torres pleaded not guilty to the drug smuggling charges; but changed his mind in late October 2019 and pleaded guilty to the import charge — in exchange government prosecutors agreed to dismiss the remaining federal drug charges, the record shows.

In addition to the 210-month prison term, the 37-year-old Mexican man will be required to serve five years of supervised release upon completion of the prison term, records show.

lzazueta@themonitor.com