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Mexican national sentenced to nearly 16 years for cocaine trafficking

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A Mexican national was sentenced Monday to 15 years eight months in prison for cocaine trafficking, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. This investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Omar Quezada-Alcala was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen to 188 months on four counts: conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, possession with intent to distribute, conspiracy to import, and importing cocaine. The sentences will be served concurrently. Quezada-Alcala will be deported after he completes his prison sentence. The Brownsville, Texas, jury found Quezada-Alcala guilty Feb. 9 after deliberating for an hour.

In handing down the sentence, Judge Hanen noted the sentence, based on the seriousness of the offense and the history and characteristics of the defendant, was crafted to protect the public from further crimes that could be committed by Quezada-Alcala and to deter others from breaking the law.

On May 13, 2011, jurors heard testimony that HSI special agents encountered an individual attempting to smuggle cocaine into the U.S. through the B&M International Bridge Port of Entry in Brownsville, Texas. After meeting the driver of the loaded vehicle, special agents attempted a controlled delivery of the cocaine to identify other individuals involved in the conspiracy.

The controlled delivery was attempted at two different locations in Brownsville and, at those locations, special agents spotted individuals involved in counter-surveillance activities. The drop off was then set to occur in a K-Mart parking lot near the Sunrise Mall in Brownsville. The cooperating driver made telephone contact with an individual who said he would be picking up the car and that individual described his clothes. Shortly afterwards, the driver met Quezada-Alcala at the mall, where the car key was exchanged.

Quezada-Alcala left the mall and drove around the parking lot, headed south and then turned north to drive to the K-Mart parking lot. There, Quezada-Alcala drove through the rows until he arrived at the vehicle containing the cocaine and eventually walked to the loaded car, when he was arrested by special agents.

After his arrest, Quezada-Alcala initially claimed to be a mechanic working on the car, but the van he arrived in had no mechanic's tools in it. Quezada-Alcala then admitted to working for individuals involved in the drug trade and admitted he did not know what was in the car, but suspected it contained narcotics, cocaine or weapons. Quezada-Alcala admitted he was going to be paid to pick up the car and deliver it to an unknown location and that he had done it before.

However, when Quezada-Alcala took the stand at his trial, he claimed he was coming to inspect the car and perform necessary mechanic work, and denied making any other statements to special agents.

At Monday's hearing, additional evidence was presented showing Quezada-Alcala used a minor to help commit the crime by having her drive his van to where he picked up the vehicle loaded with cocaine. Other documents were shown indicating his admission of being a leader in the "Paisa" prison gang, and a longtime member of the Gulf Cartel.

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

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph Leonard and David Lindenmuth, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.