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Financial Crimes

Mexican woman sentenced to 2 years in prison for smuggling cash in teddy bears

McALLEN, Texas — A Mexican woman was sentenced on Thursday to 24 months in federal prison for attempting to smuggle more than $270,000 in cash stuffed in teddy bears and pillows, announced U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno, Southern District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Jeanette Barraza-Galindo, 33, of Monterrey, Mexico, pleaded guilty June 30 before U.S. District Judge Randy Crane to attempting to smuggle $277,556 in U.S. currency into Mexico. Barraza admitted that she was intending to evade currency-reporting requirements, and knowingly and intentionally concealing $277,556 in cash inside two teddy bears and two pillows in an attempt to smuggle the currency from the United States to Mexico.

On March 1, Barraza was a passenger aboard a bus heading southbound to Mexico which was stopped by CBP officers at the Hidalgo Port of Entry in Texas. CBP officers explained the currency-reporting requirements to Barraza. When asked if she had more than $10,000 in cash, Barraza falsely stated she had nothing to declare. When CBP officers searched her possessions, they found cash hidden in teddy bears and pillows. ICE HSI continued the investigation which led to criminal charges against Barraza.

As part of her plea agreement, Barraza agreed to forfeit $277,556 in currency to the United States. Barraza has been in federal custody without bond since her March 1 arrest. She will remain in custody pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Sully, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.