Lorenzo Zazueta-Castro

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Lorenzo Zazueta-Castro covers immigration and federal courts for The Monitor. He can be reached at lzazueta@themonitor.com or (956) 683-4452.

Federal courthouse closed to the public until further notice

The federal courthouse in McAllen will be closed to the public, according to an order signed Friday by U.S. District Judges Ricardo H. Hinojosa, Randy Crane and Micaela Alvarez. Beginning April 6, “The United States Courthouse in McAllen, Texas (Bentsen Tower) will be closed to the public,” the order states. “ In an effort to protect the health and safety of the public, staff, and judicial officers from exposure to or spread” of the COVID-19 virus, the order states the courthouse will be closed to the public until further notice. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Trial for RGC man to commence next week; Records: Man said he needed money for...

McALLEN — The trial for a Rio Grande City man accused of attempting to smuggle more than 550 pounds of marijuana will begin next...

Edinburg woman implicates herself in drug smuggling scheme

A woman who filed a police report inadvertently implicated herself in a drug smuggling conspiracy, records show.  Emily Julieta Gonzalez faces a federal drug smuggling charge related to a March 18 carjacking in Hidalgo. She told police two men carjacked her, and the following day, Hidalgo police officers found 10.5 kilograms of cocaine concealed within her vehicle.  Police arrested Gonzalez March 19, and she made her initial federal court appearance Monday on a charge of possession of a controlled substance. She was back in court Wednesday for her detention hearing, court notes show.  Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Feds expelling unauthorized immigrants to reduce virus risk

McALLEN — In an effort to minimize risks and exposure to U.S. Border Patrol agents and detainees in detention facilities, agents are immediately expelling...

Man in cigarette scheme has trial set for May

A trial date has been set for a Mexican national accused of playing a role in an illegal cigarette distribution operation. The court granted a motion for a continuance Thursday for Luis Enrique Vazquez-De La Cruz and set a final pretrial for May 4, and the jury selection for the following day.  Along with Juan Carlos Teran Areaga, 37, of Mexico and Jose Francisco Guerra, 80, of Mission, Vazquez is accused of allegedly planning to smuggle nearly 17,000 cigarettes from the U.S. into Mexico. The men face federal smuggling goods charges in connection with a Jan. 15 incident in which nearly 17,000 cigarettes were discovered inside a trailer, records show. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Roma man pleads guilty in connection with Valentine’s Day smuggling attempt

A Roma man, who was not “feeling the love” from Border Patrol agents last month during an attempt to smuggle 10 people into the country illegally on Valentine’s Day was back in court Wednesday. Adriel Benavides, who allegedly attempted to smuggle a group of 10 people who lacked legal authorization to be in the country, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of bringing in and harboring, records show. On March 10, Benavides’ court-appointed attorney filed a motion making the court aware of Benavides’ intent to plead guilty to bringing in and harboring charges related to his Feb. 14 arrest. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Jurors hand 20-year-old Alamo man 35 years

A day after jurors found Peter Uvalle guilty of murder in the shooting death of Jonathan Joseph Alcala, they handed the 20-year-old man a 35-year prison sentence.  It only took jurors three hours to find Uvalle guilty in the Dec. 15, 2017 shooting death of Alcala — who was outside his family’s home at about 1:30 a.m. when Uvalle, a passenger in the GMC pickup truck of his older cousin, Omar Garcia, called out to him and shot him five times as Alcala turned around. The jurors deliberated for four hours before coming to their decision to give Uvalle the 35-year sentence and a $5,000 fine. Hours earlier, the state and defense, Hidalgo County Assistant District Attorneys Vance W. Gonzales and Ben A. Abila, and Savannah Gonzalez and Lucia “Lucy” Regalado made their final arguments to jurors.  Read the full story at themonitor.com

State, defense rest cases in Uvalle murder trial

Issues with evidence in the murder trial of Peter Uvalle continued to slow down testimony Monday. But despite continued delays in testimony, jurors finally heard from Uvalle. Jurors were shown police investigators interrogating Uvalle 12 hours after the shooting while he was in a hospital bed. The video footage, roughly 35 minutes long, depicted a recently injured Uvalle being interrogated by two Pharr police investigators, one of whom was an oft-maligned former police investigator named Enrique Ontiveros. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

San Juan man faces smuggling charges after meth found inside car panels

A San Juan man faces federal smuggling charges after he attempted to sneak more than 100 packages of meth into the country, records show. Robert Soto stood before U.S. Magistrate J. Scott Hacker for his initial appearance Wednesday, a day after he was arrested at the Anzalduas port of entry. The arrest stems from U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers discovery of more than 36 kilos of meth inside a Ford Mustang Soto was driving. The court granted Soto’s request that an attorney be appointed to him. The government made a motion to have Soto remain in custody temporarily pending a detention hearing, which the court also granted, notes show. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Mission man admits to role in illegal cigarette smuggling

McALLEN — A court granted a bond for a Mission man found at a warehouse containing 800,000 pounds of cigarettes ready for transport to...