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South Texas man convicted of heroin and cocaine trafficking

BROWNSVILLE, Texas — Following a one-day trial on Friday, a Brownsville federal jury found a former reserve officer for the Nueces County Constables Office guilty on three drug trafficking charges, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. The case was investigated jointly by U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Mercedes Perez, 54, of Bishop, Texas, was found guilty on Feb. 10 of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine and heroin, as well as possession with intent to distribute cocaine and heroin. U.S. District Judge Hilda G. Tagle, presided over the trial.

During trial, evidence showed that on Oct. 29, 2011 Perez presented himself for inspection at the Gateway International Port of Entry as the driver and sole occupant of a 2002 Dodge Stratus. At primary inspection, he was questioned about his travel to Mexico, at which time he claimed he owned the vehicle for five years and was visiting Mexico for a dental appointment.

A CBP officer testified that Perez had received an alert on this vehicle and the car was referred to secondary inspection. Perez stated he was only traveling to Matamoros for dental work and immediately handed the CBP officer a receipt for dental care expenses. During the inspection, a K-9 alerted to the vehicle and officers subsequently discovered a total of eight bundles in both the driver and passenger side rocker panels. Of those, six contained cocaine and two contained black tar heroin. A query of his border crossings into the United States from Mexico revealed Perez had crossed 35 times since Aug. 11, 2010.

Perez took the stand and contended he had no knowledge of the presence of cocaine or heroin in his car. After deliberating for 30 minutes, the jury returned its verdicts on all three counts.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 14. Perez has been in custody since his arrest where he will remain pending sentencing. He faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison.

Assistant U. S. Attorneys Ana C. Cano and Jose A. Esquivel Jr., Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.