Bond granted in drug smuggling case

Defendant admitted to laundering cash into Mexico, records show

A Court granted a Mercedes man a bond Thursday in a drug smuggling case, records show.

The decision from the court for Lorenzo Contreras Jr. comes a day after his initial bond hearing was reset for Thursday when the court noted it needed more time to consider releasing the Mercedes man from federal custody.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter E. Ormsby granted Contreras a $50,000 bond during a hearing related to his arrest in September.

He faces federal drug smuggling charges after his cellphone led federal agents to incriminating evidence, records show.

Contreras faces two drug-related charges after being arrested at the Hidalgo port of entry, where U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers discovered illegal narcotics in his vehicle, records show.

Contreras, 37, attempted to cross back into the United States from Mexico but was referred for a secondary inspection, where CBP officers noticed anomalies in the rear quarter panel area of the vehicle.

After a search, CBP officers discovered bundles containing what was later determined to be methamphetamine.

“A physical search of the vehicle was conducted, and 23 cellophane and vacuum sealed packages, weighing approximately 12.84 kilograms, were discovered concealed within the rear quarter panel of the vehicle,” the complaint against Contreras states.

The Mercedes man was subsequently interviewed by U.S. Homeland Security Investigations agents.

“HSA SAs interviewed Contreras who, after providing several inconsistent and admittedly false statements, stated he was hired by an unknown person in Mexico and to be paid $500 USD to transport what he was told to be United States currency from the United States into Mexico,” the record shows. “Contreras stated he had also made several previous trips into United States on behalf of the smuggling organization, allegedly for the purpose of smuggling currency into Mexico.”

Additionally, after a search of Contreras’ cellphone, agents were able to discover communication between Contreras and “identified drug traffickers” with reference to Contreras’ travel plans.

State county records show Contreras pleaded guilty to one count of terroristic threat in April 2017. The charge was related to a November 2016 incident in which Contreras allegedly physically assaulted a woman, records show.

He was sentenced to 180 days in jail deferred and placed on community supervision, records show.

Contreras, who made his initial appearance before a magistrate Sept. 21, faces one illegal importation charge, and one conspiracy to import charge, records show.

If convicted of the federal charges, Contreras could face up to 10 years in federal prison.