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North Carolina man convicted for meth conspiracy

LAREDO, Texas — A North Carolina man entered a guilty plea on Monday for conspiring to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with the assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Salvador Hernandez, 25, of Newton Grove, N.C., appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Guillermo Garcia and entered a guilty plea of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Judge Garcia accepted his plea and is expected to file a report and recommendation with Senior U.S. District Judge George P. Kazen recommending the plea be accepted and the defendant be convicted of the federal felony offense.

During the plea hearing on Dec. 5, Hernandez admitted to facilitating a plan on Dec. 15, 2010, to import controlled substances into the United States from Mexico and distribute the narcotics to other individuals in Atlanta, Ga. Specifically, he spoke with two other persons, Eduardo Mejia and Erika Canino, to arrange for them to come to Laredo in December 2010 to meet with other people in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, and to bring in five kilograms of cocaine.

According to court documents, on Dec. 15, 2010, Mejia and Canino arrived at the Gateway to the Americas Bridge in Laredo, Texas, from Mexico as passengers in a taxi at which time Canino declared three kegs of beer. As she proceeded to pay the alcohol tax, CBP officers became suspicious and inspected the kegs with an X-Ray machine. At that time, they discovered the kegs contained 14.6 kilograms of liquid methamphetamine.

When ICE HSI special agents spoke with Mejia and Canino, they both admitted they had made arrangements with Hernandez to come to Laredo and bring in the kegs containing narcotics, although they both expected the kegs to contain cocaine. Mejia admitted he was expecting to be paid $3,500, while Canino would get $5,000 for their part in the conspiracy to import the drug-laden kegs and transport and deliver the kegs to others in Atlanta. Hernandez further admitted he helped purchase Canino's plane tickets for a one-way flight to Laredo. He also admitted that he gave Mejia a ride to the airport in North Carolina for Mejia's flight to meet others in Nuevo Laredo where he would pick up the narcotics.

Hernandez has been in custody since his arrest. He will remain in custody until his sentencing, which is scheduled for February 2012. At sentencing, Hernandez could face a minimum mandatory of 10 years to a maximum term of imprisonment of life and a maximum fine of $10 million.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Roberto F. Ramirez, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting the case.