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Texas man, Mexican native sentenced on cocaine smuggling charges

PHILADELPHIA - A legal permanent resident of the United States from Texas and Mexican native, was sentenced Friday to more than 16 years in prison for his role in a scheme to smuggle cocaine into the Allentown, Pa., area from Mexico. He was convicted in February 2011 following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Hector Hugo Tovar-Sanchez, 25, of Cleveland, Texas, was sentenced to 200 months in prison on multiple drug smuggling counts related to his participation in the illegal operation. Tovar-Sanchez and his co-conspirators were responsible for bringing approximately 17 kilograms of cocaine and approximately 1,000 pounds of marijuana into the Allentown, Pa., area. Tovar-Sanchez also supplied an additional 50 kilograms of cocaine to distributors in North Carolina and Delaware. The investigation revealed that the narcotics were being smuggled into the United States from Mexico before being passed along to defendants in San Antonio and Houston.

The HSI investigation, with assistance from the Pennsylvania State Police, Allentown Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration revealed that the drugs were transported in U-Haul trucks, tractor-trailers, and cars with secret compartments.

"Today's sentence and dismantling of this drug smuggling organization again underscores HSI's determination to stop these criminals in their tracks," said John P. Kelleghan, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Philadelphia. "The extensive cooperation between all of our law enforcement agencies and HSI's investigative expertise again puts drug trafficking organizations on notice: we will not allow our communities to be threatened by anyone."

In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Court Judge James Knoll Gardner ordered five years of supervised release and ordered Tovar-Sanchez to pay a $400 special assessment.

Tovar-Sanchez also faces federal marijuana charges in Texas, along with a charge related to the discovery of a sawed-off shotgun in his home in Cleveland at the time of his arrest.