San Juan man faces smuggling charges after meth found inside car panels

McALLEN — A San Juan man faces federal smuggling charges after he attempted to sneak more than 100 packages of meth into the country, records show.

Robert Soto stood before U.S. Magistrate J. Scott Hacker for his initial appearance Wednesday, a day after he was arrested at the Anzalduas port of entry. The arrest stems from U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers discovery of more than 36 kilos of meth inside a Ford Mustang Soto was driving.

The court granted Soto’s request that an attorney be appointed to him. The government made a motion to have Soto remain in custody temporarily pending a detention hearing, which the court also granted, notes show.

According to the criminal complaint, Soto, 19, told CBP officers he was coming from Mexico — where he had spent the last three days — and that he was headed to “City, Texas,” for work.

After Soto gave a negative declaration, CBP officers referred Soto’s vehicle for a secondary inspection, where, with the use of a K-9 unit, they were alerted to the presence of narcotics in the vehicle’s rear quarter panels.

Once officers removed the quarter panels, they discovered 119 packages containing a crystal-like substance later was determined to be methamphetamine; with a total weight of 36.74 kilograms.

During his interview with federal agents, Soto admitted he was going to be paid $5,000 U.S. cash to transport the nearly 40 kilos of meth past the international border and make his way to Houston, the record stated.

Soto is due back before the magistrate Friday morning for the detention hearing, where the court will decide whether to grant Soto a bond.

According to a U.S. Department of Justice 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment study, the southwest border is the main entry point for a majority of the meth that is brought into the country.

“CBP reported that 97 percent of methamphetamine seizures occur at or near the southwest border and that meth seizures continue to increase along that corridor,” the study stated.