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Woman residing in Mexico sentenced to nearly 16 years in prison for drug trafficking

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A U.S. citizen residing in Reynosa, Mexico was sentenced Friday to 188 months in prison for trafficking more than 10 kilograms (22 lbs.) of methamphetamine, 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).

Jennifer Ellen Marie Rodriguez, 31, was sentenced to nearly 16 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, and further ordered to serve five years of supervised release following completion of that prison term. At the hearing, the defense attempted to argue for a lower sentence based upon testimony that she acted under some form of duress. Judge Ramos considered the defense’s argument as well as all of the evidence presented at trial and subsequently handed her the 188-month sentence. A federal jury in Corpus Christi convicted Rodriguez Jan. 18 following a three day trial and less than an hour of deliberation.

"Anyone contemplating trafficking in dangerous drugs should ask themselves if they are prepared to forfeit their freedom for years to come when caught" said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of HSI in Houston. "The great work of an alert DPS Trooper and HSI special agents in this case clearly show that the reward is simply not worth the risk."

During trial, the government presented testimony that Rodriguez was pulled over by a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper on June 23, 2012, near Encino, Texas. During that traffic stop, Rodriguez claimed to be traveling to San Antonio to attend her grandfather’s funeral. Rodriguez did not know the name or location of the funeral home and did not have appropriate attire expected for such an event.

Rodriguez provided consent to search her vehicle and was arrested after the methamphetamine was discovered hidden in a void behind the vehicle’s dashboard. The government also provided evidence that Rodriguez’s grandfather was a lifelong resident of Michigan and had passed away in 2011.

Rodriguez admitted at trial that she made up the story about the funeral. She testified that she did not know the drugs were hidden in her vehicle and that she was driving to San Antonio to exchange the vehicle for her kidnapped cousin. Rodriguez claimed that on the previous day her cousin was kidnapped in Mexico and kidnappers demanded she deliver the vehicle to San Antonio in exchange for her cousin.

The government countered with evidence that Rodriguez never told this story to law enforcement at the time of her arrest. In fact, the government demonstrated that she had only made the claim just a few days before trial began.

Rodriguez will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Assistant United States Attorney Chad W. Cowan, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.