Five charged in El Paso for smuggling drugs and illegal aliens
EL PASO - Today in El Paso, federal authorities filed two criminal complaints charging five individuals for smuggling an estimated $5.4 million worth of marijuana and methamphetamine and 77 illegal aliens, announced U.S. Attorney Gregg N. Sofer, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Erik P. Breitzke, Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) El Paso Division Special Agent in Charge Kyle W. Williamson, U.S. Border Patrol El Paso Sector Chief Patrol Agent Gloria I. Chavez and Big Bend Sector Chief Patrol Agent Sean L. McGoffin.
One criminal complaint charges four Mexican nationals – 40-year-old Jose Jesus Cardenas-Gonzalez, 21-year-old Cristian Armando Lucero-Gonzalez, 27-year-old Damian Arturo Izaguirre-Velasquez and 36-year-old Luis Francisco Galaz-Baldenegro – with one count of conspiracy to transport illegal aliens. The other criminal complaint charges 25-year-old Mexican national Manuel Uriel Pinuelas Salas with possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
According to court documents, on January 28, 2021, U.S. Border Patrol agents stopped five pick-up trucks travelling in a caravan approximately 10 miles north of the border on Lopez Road near the base of the Quitman Mountain range in Hudspeth County. Agents discovered a total of 77 illegal aliens inside four vehicles. The fifth vehicle, driven by Pinuelas, contained over 450 pounds of marijuana and more than 157 pounds of methamphetamine.
Upon conviction, Pinuelas faces between 10 years and life in federal prison. The other four defendants face up to 20 years in federal prison upon conviction. All five remain in federal custody pending detention hearings anticipated to take place later this week.
The HSI, DEA and U.S. Border Patrol continue to investigate this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Spencer Kiggins is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
A criminal complaint is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.