LAREDO, Texas — Three South Texas residents were sentenced to at least five years in federal prison Tuesday for illegally importing methamphetamine.
These sentences were announced by U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick, Southern District of Texas. This investigation was conducted by U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in coordination with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Alfredo Aguilar Jr, 30, and co-defendants Cristen Nicole Cano, 29, and Cristal Hernandez, 23, were sentenced June 11 by U.S. District Judge Hilda G. Tagle. Judge Tagle sentenced Aguilar to 240 months in federal prison to be followed by 10 years of supervised release. Cano and Hernandez were each sentenced to 60 months. Cano and Hernandez must serve two and five years of supervised release, respectively. Aguilar, Cano and Hernandez are from the Texas towns of Harlingen, Combes and San Benito, respectively.
Aguilar was found guilty at a bench trial Sept. 6, 2018. Co-defendants, Cano and Hernandez pleaded guilty to criminal charges Aug. 7, 2018.
According to court documents, on May 15, 2018, Aguilar, Cano and Hernandez attempted to enter the United States at the Gateway to the Americas International Bridge Port of Entry in Laredo through the pedestrian lane. Cano and Hernandez carried bags of groceries, including four cans of jalapeños and hominy. During primary inspection, authorities shook the cans, noting they were unusually heavy, and heard what sounded like powder rather than liquid. They were referred to secondary inspection, at which time the cans were X-rayed, which revealed anomalies. Authorities also noticed the cans had been altered.
Ultimately, the cans were found to contain a total of 10.52 kilograms (23.2 pounds) of methamphetamine. Upon further investigation, it was determined Aguilar had recruited Cano and Hernandez to smuggle the drugs into the United States.
Aguilar and Cano have been in federal custody since their arrest May 15, 2018. Both will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future. Hernandez was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher dos Santos, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting this case.