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Mexican national pleads guilty to possessing nearly 600 pounds of marijuana

LAREDO, Texas – A Mexican national pleaded guilty in federal court on Friday to possessing nearly 600 pounds of marijuana intended for distribution, 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), and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Border Patrol (BP).

Joel Hugo Robles-Perez, 24, pleaded guilty on Feb. 3 before U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia-Marmolejo. Robles-Perez was scheduled for trial Feb. 14 and was in court Feb. 3 for a related hearing. However, he suddenly waived that hearing and opted to plead guilty in the case. Robles-Perez' sentencing is scheduled for May 24. He faces a minimum of five years and up to 40 years in prison and/or a $5 million fine, to be followed by a term of supervised release of at least four years. After he completes his prison sentence, Robles-Perez will be deported.

On Dec. 9, 2011, officers with HSI, BP, and assisted by deputies with the Zapata County Sheriff's Department, acted on information regarding a large amount of marijuana being held at a residence in Zapata, Texas. Upon their arrival, Robles-Perez, who was living legally in the United States at the time, answered the door and gave permission for the officers to search the property. He subsequently informed them they would find about 600 pounds of marijuana hidden in a truck parked behind the home, which the officers discovered.

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