GULFPORT, Miss. — A Texas man was sentenced to 40 months in prison Wednesday following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Gulf Coast Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST), the FBI and the Jackson County Sheriff's Department in Mississippi.
Gilbert Cuello III, 23, of Brownsville, Texas, was sentenced by U. S. District Judge Walter J. Gex, III following his guilty plea in February to an indictment charging him with bulk cash smuggling. Cuello was encountered during a traffic stop by a Jackson County sheriff's deputy October 6. During a consent search of Cuello's vehicle, deputies discovered $109,491 of U.S. currency secreted within an aftermarket speaker box located inside the cab of the vehicle. HSI's investigation revealed Cuello intended to smuggle the currency to Mexico.
"Bulk cash smuggling is a serious crime motivated by greed and disregard for the law," said Raymond R. Parmer, Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New Orleans. "By leveraging the combined investigative experience of our domestic and international law enforcement partners, HSI is more effective in denying criminal organizations the proceeds of illicit activity." Parmer oversees a five state area that includes Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee and Louisiana.
In response to the dramatic surge in cross-border crime and violence, due to intense competition between Mexican drug cartels and transnational criminal smuggling organizations, ICE has partnered with federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement counterparts to create a series of multi-agency BEST teams developed to identify, disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations posing significant threats to border security. Currently, there are 30 BESTs with locations around the U.S and in Mexico, including the Gulf Coast BEST teams, which reports to the HSI special agent in charge in New Orleans.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Annette Williams, Southern District of Mississippi.