LAREDO, Texas – Two men are set to appear in federal court to answer separate, but similar charges for allegedly trying to smuggle drugs into the country, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
Alondra Pliego, 21, Houston, and Mexican citizen Jose Antonio Garza Gutierrez, 28, Vallecillo, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, were both originally charged by criminal complaints. A federal grand jury returned the indictments Sept. 24 for conspiracy to import methamphetamine and cocaine, respectively. They are expected to appear for their respective arraignments today at 1 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sam Sheldon.
On Aug. 29, 2019, Pliego attempted to enter the United States through the Colombia Solidarity International Bridge Port of Entry in Laredo driving a Chrysler sport utility vehicle.
The charges allege that during inspection, authorities conducted an x-ray examination of the vehicle which revealed anomalies within the rear area. A k-9 inspection allegedly alerted the possible presence of narcotics. Authorities then soon discovered a non-factory compartment within the rear cargo floor area concealing 65 packages, according to the charges. The white crystal-like substance allegedly field-tested positive for methamphetamine and had a total weight of approximately 66.95 kilograms.
In the other case, Gutierrez allegedly drove a semi-truck and trailer combination through the World Trade Bridge Port of Entry in Laredo on Sept. 3, 2019. During inspection, authorities noticed an unusual hidden compartment in the sleeper area of the vehicle, according to the charges. Soon after, the charges allege they discovered 14 tightly wrapped bundles containing more than 16.94 kilograms of cocaine.
If convicted, both face a minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison as well as a possible $10 million maximum fine.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations conducted both investigations with the assistance of Customs and Border Protection.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brandon Scott Bowling and Paul A. Harrison are prosecuting the Pliego and Gutierrez cases, respectively.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.