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California man sentenced to 24 years for bringing in meth from Mexico

Laredo, Texas – A California man was sentenced to 24 years in federal prison on Friday for possessing with intent to deliver 16.4 pounds of methamphetamine. The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Fidel Martinez, 41, of California, appeared before visiting Judge Joseph M. Hood on Oct. 7. Judge Hood sentenced Martinez to 242 months in prison for drug trafficking, to be followed by five years of supervised release.

According to court documents, Martinez pleaded guilty on Jan. 11.

On Nov. 5, 2010, Martinez drove a 2011 Ford F-150 pickup truck into the U.S. Port of Entry, Bridge No. 1 (the Gateway to the Americas International Bridge) from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. At that time, a CBP officer noticed Martinez becoming very nervous when asked if he had anything illegal with him or if he had any items to declare. The truck's engine came close to stalling repeatedly and Martinez revved the engine to keep it running. A narcotics detention dog alerted the officer to the engine compartment. Visual inspection of the engine revealed new bolts to the engine manifold area and an x-ray of the engine confirmed anomalies, or possible hidden items, within the engine.

Upon further examination of the engine, CBP officers discovered packages of methamphetamine wrapped in aluminum foil weighing 7.44 kilograms concealed within a natural void within the engine's intake manifold. Initially, Martinez denied any knowledge of the drugs, but later voluntarily recanted his denial and admitted he was attempting to smuggle the drugs in the truck into the United States, for which he was to be paid $9,000.

Martinez has been in custody since his arrest where he will remain pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Homero Ramirez, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.