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Mexican woman sentenced to 3 years in prison for smuggling heroin through Houston airport

HOUSTON – A woman from Mexico was sentenced Friday to 36 months in federal prison after she was convicted for smuggling nearly two kilograms of heroin in her luggage as she arrived from Ecuador at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).

This sentence was announced by 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), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Yessica Chanel Cabanillas-Torres, 21, of Sonora, Mexico was sentenced to three years in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Gray H. Miller. Cabanillas-Torres is expected to also face deportation proceedings following her release from prison.

Cabanillas-Torres pleaded guilty Feb. 7 to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute heroin. At the hearing, she admitted that on Oct. 4, 2012, she arrived at IAH as a passenger aboard a flight from Quito, Ecuador. Her ticket indicated she was continuing her travel through Houston to Newark, N.J. Upon her arrival at IAH, CBP officers questioned Cabanillas-Torres about her reasons for visiting the United States and examined her luggage for potentially prohibited items or contraband.

During the examination, she presented herself and two hard-sided suitcases to CBP officers for examination. Officers removed the contents of the suitcases and noticed the suitcases seemed to be unusually heavy. Officers X-rayed the two suitcases and discovered anomalies along the inner frame of each bag. Based on these anomalies and the weight of the suitcases, officers drilled into the two suitcases and discovered a brown powdery substance within the walls of each suitcase which field tested positive for the presence of heroin.

Officers then dismantled one of the suitcases and found several small bundles of heroin inside with a gross weight of 1.2 kilograms (2.6 pounds). Officers left the second suitcase intact and sent it to the CBP forensic laboratory to be disassembled to remove the suspected heroin inside. The second suitcase was also found to contain bundles of heroin and packaged in a similar fashion to the first suitcase. The total amount of heroin found was 1.934 kilograms (4.26 pounds) with 82.7 percent purity.

Cabanillas-Torres indicated she had been hired by an individual in Mexico to transport luggage from Quito to Newark in exchange for $4,000. She stated she did not know the identity of the person in Newark to whom she was supposed to deliver the luggage. But she knew the luggage contained drugs and was intending to deliver these suitcases to another person in the U.S.

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

Assistant U.S. Attorney Arthur R. Jones, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.