U.S. citizen sentenced to decade in jail for trying to smuggle 1.6 M fentanyl drugs via Nogales

A 40-year-old man was sentenced to 10 years in jail for trying to smuggle round 110 kilos of fentanyl via the Mariposa border crossing in Nogales final December.

Gerardo Hernandez was sentenced by U.S. District Choose Jennifer Zipps throughout a listening to on Nov. 2. Following his jail sentence, Hernandez will face three years probation.

A U.S. citizen, Hernandez was within the passenger seat of 2003 Dodge Caravan when the driving force crossed the U.S.-Mexico border on the Mariposa border crossing in west Nogales.

An officer with CBP requested Hernandez and an unidentified feminine driver, if they’d something within the car, a part of a “binding unfavorable declaration.” The car was pushed to a Z-Portal scanner, which x-rayed the car and located “anomalies in line with drug packaging in the back and front seats,” in accordance with a filed grievance.

CBP officers dug into the car and located 43 packages containing 30 milligram tablets. One bundle was examined, and CBP officers discovered it contained fentanyl. All informed, there have been 1.6 million tablets of fentanyl, weighing round 110 kilos.

In line with courtroom data, Hernandez later informed CBP officers he was recruited by an unnamed particular person on Fb to “make some cash in Mexico.” He mentioned he arrived in Mexico with the driving force, and later went to the grocery retailer in Nogales, Sonora whereas she was at her mom’s home. Whereas on the retailer, Hernandez met an individual who took the car “for an unknown period of time after which returned” to the shop, wrote Jason Cary, a particular agent with Homeland Safety Investigations — part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“Hernandez acknowledged he wasn’t certain what they’d put inside his car, however he acknowledged he knew no matter it was, it was unlawful,” Cary wrote. Hernandez mentioned he anticipated to make $5,000 for taking the car north. He additionally informed officers he believed there was contraband within the car, however mentioned “he figured it was ‘bud’ or ‘meth’ or perhaps foreign money.”

“Hernandez acknowledged this was his concept solely and that the driving force had no concept he was utilizing her car to smuggle contraband,” CBP officers wrote. Officers later agreed the driving force was “unaware that they had been importing managed substances.”

In an April plea settlement, Hernandez wrote that the car contained 49.9
kilograms of fentanyl stashed within the entrance and rear seats, and that he
knew the car contained a managed substance.”

Final fiscal yr — which ran from Oct. 2022 to Sept. 30, 2023 — CBP officers intercepted 27,000 kilos of fentanyl alongside the Southwestern border. Of that, the lion’s share was intercepted on the nation’s border crossings.

In Arizona, officers on the border crossings intercepted 12,000 kilos of fentanyl final yr, whereas Border Patrol brokers intercepted round 702 kilos, in accordance with CBP statistics. 

Whereas there was growing fury over fentanyl smuggling, information from final yr reveals fentanyl seizures fell far behind different medicine. Final yr, CBP officers intercepted 150,000 kilos of marijuana, 140,000 kilos of methamphetamine, and almost 82,000 kilos of cocaine. Even Khat smuggling — a flowering shrub chewed as a stimulant — outstripped fentanyl smuggling. CBP officers intercepted 70,000 kilos of Khat, however simply 27,000 kilos of fentanyl.

Hernandez already had 11 prior felony convictions and 6 prior misdemeanor convictions since 2002, mentioned Zach Stoebe, a Justice Division spokesman.

HSI and CBP officers performed the investigation, whereas Assistant U.S. Lawyer Kelly Cavanaugh dealt with the prosecution, Stoebe mentioned.