On April 12, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Mariposa Port of Entry referred 29-year-old Jesus Hilario Iriqui Avechuco and his underage son to the secondary inspection area when they attempted to enter the United States in a Chevy truck.
An X-ray exam of the vehicle showed anomalies in and around a speaker box that had been mounted to the truck, but a drug-sniffing dog did not detect anything illicit. Even so, federal investigators told the CBP officers not to release the vehicle, and soon, agents from the DEA and Homeland Security Investigations arrived to help dismantle the speaker box.
That’s when they discovered the box had been outfitted with a GPS device and microphone, as well as an aftermarket wireless hydraulic compartment that was packed with 23 pounds of methamphetamine, 16 pounds of cocaine, nearly five pounds of heroin and 1.4 pounds of fentanyl. The stash had an estimated value of $600,000.
Despite the size of the drug load and the fact that it was a federal bust, the case was prosecuted in local courts.
Iriqui later pleaded guilty to one count of the unlawful transportation of a dangerous drug for sale, a Class 3 felony, and on Aug. 26, was sentenced to 8.75 years in state prison by Judge Thomas Fink of Santa Cruz County Superior Court.
According to court documents, Iriqui told agents during a post-arrest interview that he had been guaranteed that the speaker box compartment would not be detected by X-rays or a drug-sniffing dog. He said he knew he was transporting drugs, though he didn’t know what kind.
He also said that he had felt calm while trying to cross the border since he had already passed through the port with drugs several times without ever being sent to secondary. He normally crossed at the Mariposa port between 9 and 10 a.m. because it was close to the end of a shift for CBP officers, he said.
After crossing the drug loads, Iriqui said, he would take them to Phoenix and meet with different people at various parking lots to turn over the contraband. Once he returned to Mexico, he would be paid $4,500.