Woman in mother-son smuggling case pleads guilty

Docs: Pair claimed they were threatened to move drugs or be killed

READ THE COMPLAINT: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5989858-Rodriguez-complaint.html

McALLEN — A U.S. citizen residing in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, pleaded guilty to an import charge last week in connection with her arrest along with her son at a port of entry in January, court records show.

Sonia Rodriguez, 48, of Reynosa, pleaded guilty Friday before U.S. District Judge Randy Crane in connection with an attempt to enter the U.S. through a port of entry while carrying nearly 10 kilos of cocaine in her vehicle, the complaint against her stated.

Rodriguez, who was driving a Nissan Sentra that she claimed she had owned for six years, along with her son Jose Raul Hurtado, attempted to enter the U.S. through the Anzalduas International Bridge Jan. 25, when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers referred them for a secondary inspection.

During the secondary inspection of the mother and son’s vehicle, CBP officers used an X-ray device and discovered anomalies within the driver’s seat.

Using a K-9, CBP officers received an alert for possible narcotics within the Nissan.

“The CBP canine alerted to the presence of the odor of illicit drugs near the glove box and front seats of the Nissan Sentra,” the document filed against Rodriguez stated.

During the search, CBP officers found eight packages that contained a “white powdery substance,” later determined to be cocaine and weighed a total of 9.08 kilograms.

The eight packages, which were not concealed in hidden compartments, were found within the center console, the passenger’s side glove box, the rear of the driver and passenger seats, the complaint stated.

Subsequently, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations agents interviewed Rodriguez and Hurtado.

Rodriguez told agents that in October 2018, roughly three months earlier, Hurtado was in a three-vehicle car crash and that one of the vehicles was carrying a member of a drug cartel.

“Rodriguez stated the unknown Mexican cartel members stole Hurtado’s vehicle following the accident,” the document stated.

She said that a week after the car crash, an unknown man kidnapped her and Hurtado at gunpoint from their residence in Reynosa, and that the man told them they now owed a debt to a member of the cartel because of the damage that resulted from the crash.

“Rodriguez stated the unknown male told her she had to travel to Mexico to a mall in McAllen and meet an unknown male four times to settle the debt owed,” the document stated. “Rodriguez stated the unknown male allowed her and Hurtado to leave following the kidnapping.”

She said that in two previous instances, an unknown man took possession of her vehicle in Mexico for “brief periods,” and that upon returning her the vehicle, the man instructed her to travel to McAllen.

“Rodriguez stated she was instructed to leave the keys in the vehicle upon her arrival to the shopping mall,” the complaint shows. “Rodriguez stated an unknown male met her at the shopping mall and took her vehicle for approximately three hours. Rodriguez stated she returned to Mexico once the vehicle was returned to her.”

She told agents she wasn’t paid for the trips into the U.S., and was merely paying off the debt that was imposed on her by the cartel member.

Hurtado, during his interview with agents, confirmed a car crash in 2018, but unlike Rodriguez’s statements saying it was a three-vehicle crash, Hurtado said he was hit by another car when they ran a red light, and that was the only other vehicle involved.

He said he subsequently sold the vehicle after the crash because of the damage.

He said his mother, Rodriguez, participated in smuggling because people in Mexico threatened Rodriguez, and that she did so to protect him, and that she could get “killed,” if she didn’t follow orders from the aforementioned unknown male in Mexico.

“Law enforcement records revealed Rodriguez and Hurtado crossed into the U.S. from Mexico 29 times between October 2018 and January 2019,” the complaint stated. “Law enforcement records revealed Rodriguez, and Hurtado did not cross into the U.S. without one another between October 2018 and January 2019, which included the two aforementioned trips referenced by Rodriguez.”

In February of this year, the court dismissed Hurtado’s charges, court notes show.

Rodriguez, who will remain in U.S. Marshals Service custody, is scheduled to be sentenced July 18, records show.