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2 Laredo sisters found guilty of importing marijuana

LAREDO, Texas - Two local sisters were convicted in federal court here Friday on charges of importing more than 200 pounds of marijuana into the United States and intending to distribute it. U.S. Attorney Don DeGabrielle, Southern District of Texas, announced the guilty verdict; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted the investigation.

Sisters Zonia Sylvia Vasquez, 36, and Edica Edit Vasquez, 33, both of Laredo, were convicted by a jury Aug. 15.

They were both arrested May 3, 2008 at the Gateway to the Americas International Port of Entry Bridge I in Laredo. Zonia Vasquez was driving a black Chevrolet Tahoe and towing a flatbed trailer, both with Texas license plates. During a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspection, an officer discovered 120 bundles of marijuana hidden in the 10 hollowed-out running boards of the trailer. The combined bundles weighed a total of 267 pounds.

Zonia Vasquez denied knowing anything about the marijuana in the trailer. However, she initially told ICE agents that she borrowed the trailer from a man named Pancho to pick up tables and chairs she needed for a surprise party to be held at her house in Laredo. She changed her story after she was asked who gave her permission to borrow the tables and chairs. She then stated she drove into Mexico with tables and chairs loaded on the trailer; she dropped off the items at her ex-mother-in-law's house for a party there; and she was in the process of coming back empty. She changed her story yet again when she was told that the bridge cameras would be checked to confirm her story. Then she reverted to her original account that she picked up the trailer in Nuevo Laredo intending to pick-up tables and chairs in Laredo and take them to her house.

After Edica was arrested, she admitted to agents that her sister asked her to help pick up a trailer that she knew was going to be loaded with some type of narcotics. She said she expected to be paid $2,000 to $3,000 of the $6,000 her sister Zonia expected to receive from an unspecified person.

Sentencing is anticipated to take place before the end of the year. Each defendant faces a minimum mandatory sentence of five years to a maximum of 40 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $2 million, and a four-year term of supervised release after completing the sentence.

This case was investigated by ICE and CBP which also provided evidence at trial. Assistant U.S. Attorney Roberto F. Ramirez, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.