Mexican national gets 14 years for drug smuggling

A Mexican national who claimed he was forced to smuggle drugs was sentenced to a 14-year prison sentence in federal court Thursday, records show.

The man, Carlos Soto-Salazar, a Mexican citizen, was arrested Oct. 18, 2019, at the Roma port of entry attempting to cross into the U.S., when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers referred him for a secondary inspection.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez sentenced Soto-Salazar to a 168-month prison sentence in connection with drug smuggling charges.

During that inspection, Soto-Salazar, who had his wife and three young children in the vehicle, told CBP officers that a friend of his had loaned him the Lincoln Navigator he was driving.

But during that inspection, CBP officers got a hit on the vehicle, stating that the vehicle was linked to “a narcotic smuggling organization,” the complaint against Soto-Salazar stated.

The alert led to a search of the vehicle, which in turn led to the discovery of 13 concealed packages within the vehicle, specifically 9.06 kilograms of heroin, and 1.54 kilos of meth, according to the court record.

“Soto-Salazar initially stated his friend offered him to use the Lincoln Navigator to travel to Laredo, Texas, but his friend then began threatening to harm his family if he did not drive the vehicle across to the United States,” the document stated. “Soto-Salazar stated that at that point he knew there was something illegal in the vehicle.”

He told officers that once he crossed into Mexico, he was going to travel north to San Antonio or Austin.

Soto-Salazar was subsequently charged with four counts related to conspiracy, and drug smuggling, and pleaded guilty to one count of import of a controlled substance on Dec. 30, 2019.

In exchange for the guilty plea, the government agreed to dismiss the remaining charges he faced at the time of his sentencing.