LAREDO, Texas — A Mexican man was convicted July 7 for conspiracy to import and importing more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana.
This case is being conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with assistance from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Office Director.
Ruben Maldonado-Espino, 30, from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, was convicted by U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo, Southern District of Texas. Since he is not a U.S. citizen, he is expected to face deportation proceedings following his incarceration.
According to court documents, Maldonado-Espino drove a semi-truck and trailer through the World Trade Bridge near Laredo on May 7. Authorities conducted an x-ray examination of the vehicle which revealed anomalies in the trailer.
Law enforcement began to open the doors, at which time Maldonado-Espino admitted he knew drugs were in the trailer. He claimed a Mexican drug cartel was holding his wife hostage and forced him to smuggle the narcotics.
However, authorities contacted his wife who appeared to be calm and not under distress. Maldonado-Espino eventually admitted the story was a lie he was told to give to law enforcement.
The 198 bundles of marijuana found in the trailer weighed approximately 4,601 pounds with an estimated street value of $875,000.
U.S. District Judge Marmolejo will impose sentencing Oct. 28. At that time, Maldonado-Espino faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison. He has been and will remain in custody pending that hearing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Harrison, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.