BROWNSVILLE, TX — Valentin Muniz-Saavedra, 44, residing in Brownsville, has been convicted of conspiracies to possess and import and possession with intent to distribute and import cocaine and methamphetamine, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson. The jury deliberated for more than a day and convicted Muniz-Saavedra tonight of possession with intent to distribute 18 kilograms (39.6 pounds) of cocaine, possession with intent to distribute 5.5 kilograms (12.1 pounds) of methamphetamine as well as conspiracy to import cocaine and methamphetamine into the United States.
The charges arose from an inspection and seizure at the Gateway International Bridge Port of Entry in Brownsville where Muniz-Saavedra entered the United States as the driver of a mini-van. During inspection of this vehicle, agents discovered 18 kilograms of cocaine and 5.5 kilograms of methamphetamine hidden within the side quarter panels, firewall and roof. A total of 32 bundles were removed by inspectors.
Muniz-Saavedra claimed to have no knowledge of the drugs but admitted to having picked up the van on the Mexican side of the bridge and was planning to drop it off to another individual immediately upon entering the U.S. Muniz-Saavedra also admitted to agents and inspectors that he lied about when he obtained the van, saying he had “borrowed it earlier in the day.”
Evidence at the four-day trial showed that upon further investigation by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), it was determined Muniz-Saavedra had met earlier in the day at several different locations in Brownsville with other individuals associated with the mini-van. A Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent testified the cocaine and methamphetamine was worth more than $500,000.
U.S. District Judge Hilda Tagle, who presided over trial, has set sentencing for June 2, 2014, at which time he faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison as well as a $10 million fine for each of the counts of which he was convicted. He has been remanded to the custody pending that hearing.
This case was investigated by HSI with the assistance of DEA. Assistant United States Attorney Oscar Ponce is prosecuting.