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04/07/2010

Laredo couple charged with conspiring to smuggle goods to Mexico

LAREDO, Texas - A local couple was charged on Wednesday with conspiring to and smuggling goods from the United States to avoid paying Mexican duties, announced U.S. Attorney Jose Angel Moreno of the Southern District of Texas. The investigation is being led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Daniel Rodriguez, 56, and Rosa Flores, 40, both of Laredo, were arrested at their home on April 1 without incident. They both appeared the next day before a federal judge, and were released on bond. A federal grand jury indicted the couple March 30.

Court documents indicate that in 2007, Rodriguez and Flores sold a fraudulent NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) certificate-of-origin document knowing it would be presented to Mexican customs to fraudulently claim 1,489 fabric rolls were manufactured in the United States, thus avoiding Mexican duty payments. According to the indictment, on various dates between 2006 and 2008, Flores, directed others to prepare fraudulent NAFTA certificates-of-origin and fraudulent exportation invoices. In 2008, is it also alleged that Rodriguez, accepted $1,500 for the purpose of paying a bribe to a Mexican customs officer to allow a fraudulent shipment of merchandise into Mexico from the United States.

The possible punishment for facilitating the transportation of goods intended to be unlawfully exported to Mexico is up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Conspiracy carries a possible punishment of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

"ICE, along with our CBP partners, aggressively investigate commercial fraud crimes, working to identify alleged violators within and outside the trade community, in an effort to facilitate legitimate trade and prevent the importation and exportation of prohibited merchandise," said ICE Special Agent in Charge Jerry Robinette. "This investigation was worked jointly with Mexican Customs under the Bilateral Agreement to uncover commercial alleged smuggling schemes affecting the commerce of both countries."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank T. Pimentel, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting this case.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct and is not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.