LAREDO, Texas – A 37-year-old local man has been ordered to federal prison for conspiring to import more than 50 kilograms of marijuana, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
Francisco De Luna pleaded guilty Aug. 3, 2020.
Today, U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo ordered him to serve a 70-month sentence to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. At the hearing, the defense argued for a lesser sentence due to De Luna’s poor health condition. Judge Marmolejo explained that his health problems were no excuse, noting they were apparently not serious enough to prevent him from continuing criminal conduct. In handing down the sentence, she considered his previous convictions of drug distribution and being a felon illegally in possession of firearm.
On Feb. 12, 2020, co-conspirator Antonio de Jesus Cadena-Rodriguez applied for entry into the United States at the Lincoln-Juarez port of entry in Laredo. A K-9 alerted to contraband in the silver Dodge Grand Caravan he was driving where authorities ultimately found 57.38 kilograms of marijuana.
Cadena-Rodriguez admitted to being a part of a smuggling operation, noting he was supposed to take the vehicle to a pre-arranged location. Law enforcement continued the investigation by delivering the marijuana as expected. A white Kia Rio soon arrived with De Luna riding as passenger. Another passenger entered Cadena-Rodriguez’s vehicle and attempted to start it.
Authorities took everyone into custody. De Luna admitted he smuggled marijuana and was at the location to pick up the load for further distribution.
Law enforcement also conducted a search of De Luna’s bedroom where they found a scale, marijuana, plastic wrap and an AR-15 style rifle with high-capacity magazines.
The drugs had an estimated street value of $27,830.
De Luna was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
Mexican national Cadena-Rodriguez, 36, had also pleaded guilty and previously received his sentence for his role in the scheme.
Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Customs and Border Protection. Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Harrison prosecuted the case.