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June 11, 2020San Antonio, TXUnited StatesFinancial Crimes

A Mexican man sentenced for attempting to smuggle close to $900k in US currency into Mexico

SAN ANTONIO — On June 11, a Mexican man was sentenced to five years in prison for attempting to smuggle $879,000 in alleged drug proceeds to Mexico.

U.S. Attorney John Bash, Western District of Texas announced the sentencing. This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Antonio with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Juan Pablo Hoyos Avila, 22, from Mexico, residing in San Antonio was sentenced before U.S. District Judge Fred Biery to five years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. Judge Biery had previously ordered the forfeiture of the seized funds to the government. On March 17, Avila pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

“This sentence represents the seriousness of these crimes and serves as an appropriate punishment for Juan Pablo Hoyos Avila. The smuggling of bulk cash often contributes to the cartel violence that damages communities on both sides of the border," said Special Agent in Charge, Shane Folden, HSI San Antonio. “HSI will continue to utilize its broad investigative authorities to dismantle transnational criminal organizations who blatantly ignore the laws of this nation.”

According to court records, on July 16, Hoyos Avila and Rafael Gabriel Martinez Leal, a 22-year-old citizen of Mexico, were on a private plane at San Antonio International Airport bound for Mexico with $879,695 in undeclared U.S. Currency. Inside the plane, authorities located the money inside a suitcase and inside cardboard packaging for an 18” box fan. Authorities arrested Hoyos Avila and Martinez Leal. Both defendants have remained in federal custody since their arrest.

On May 7, Judge Biery sentenced Martinez Leal to 70 months in federal prison.  Martinez Leal pleaded guilty on August 24, 2019, to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. By pleading guilty, Martinez Leal admitted that beginning in 2017, he coordinated the movement of money throughout the U.S. to San Antonio. On several occasions in 2018, Martinez Leal collected cash from Hoyos Avila before flying it back to Mexico using private aircraft.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Adrian Rosales, Antonio Franco, Jr. and Mary Nelda Valadez, Western District of Texas, prosecuted this case.

Updated: 11/02/2020