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Central Texas man sentenced to more than 12 years for drug trafficking

Defendant was a former reserve officer for the Nueces County Constables Office

BROWNSVILLE, Texas — A former reserve officer for the Nueces County Constables Office was sentenced Monday to 151 months for conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine and heroin, as well as possession with intent to distribute cocaine and heroin, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Mercedes Perez, 55, of Bishop, Texas, and a former reserve officer for the Nueces County Constables Office, was found guilty after one day of his trial Feb. 10. U.S. District Judge Hilda G. Tagle, Southern District of Texas, sentenced Perez May 14 to serve 151 months in federal prison. In addition, Perez was sentenced to serve five years of supervised release following his prison term.

According to court documents, HSI presented evidence that on Oct. 29, 2011, Perez presented himself for inspection at the Gateway International Port of Entry as the driver and sole occupant of a 2002 Dodge Stratus. At primary inspection he was questioned about his travel to Mexico, at which time he claimed he had owned the vehicle for five years and was visiting Mexico for a dental appointment.

A CBP officer testified that he had received an alert on this vehicle and the car was referred to secondary inspection, at which time Perez stated he was only traveling to Matamoros for dental work and immediately handed a receipt for dental care expenses. During inspection, a K-9 alerted to the vehicle and officers subsequently discovered a total of eight bundles from both the driver and passenger side rocker panels. Of those, six contained 6.66 kilograms of cocaine and two contained 2.16 kilograms of black tar heroin. A query of the crossings into the U.S. from Mexico revealed Perez had crossed about 35 times since Aug. 11, 2010.

Perez took the stand at trial and contended he had no knowledge of the presence of cocaine or heroin in his car. After deliberating for 30 minutes, the jury returned its verdicts on all counts.

Perez was ordered to remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ana C. Cano and Jose A. Esquivel Jr., Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.