Man pleads guilty in cash smuggling case

Records: Port officers found $200,000 in vehicle’s hidden compartment

McALLEN — A Mexican man accused of attempting to bypass reporting bulk cash requirements pleaded guilty to the offense during a hearing Tuesday, records show.

Kevin Mohammed Tapia-Martinez, 22, pleaded true to one of the two charges he faces in connection with his arrest at a port of entry as he allegedly attempted to smuggle into Mexico a large quantity of bulk cash.

On Feb. 21, Tapia, who told U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the port that he was coming from McAllen; and intended to travel into Mexico with his destination being Reynosa, Tamaulipas, was transferred for a secondary inspection.

“During primary outbound inspection, CBPOs obtained a negative declaration for drugs, weapons and currency over $10,000 from Tapia,” the criminal complaint against Tapia stated. “Tapia claimed to be traveling from McAllen, Texas to Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico. CBPOs referred Tapia to secondary inspection for intensive examination.”

During the secondary inspection, CBP officers discovered, hidden inside a non-factory compartment near the rear wheel and the front frame rails, a large quantity of bulk U.S. currency.

Ultimately, the CBP officers discovered $214,000 in cash, the report stated.

U.S. Homeland Security Investigations agents interviewed Tapia after he was found in possession of the bulk cash.

During the interview, Tapia admitted to “smuggling bulk cash,” in excess of $10,000; adding that he knew it was illegal to avoid reporting money in excess of that amount — and that doing so was a way to avoid reporting requirements.

Tapia, who has been in federal custody since his arrest in late February, is scheduled for sentencing Aug. 19, where he faces up to 10 years in federal prison.