EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — A trucker allegedly was paid a mere $50 to smuggle more than half a ton of cocaine from Mexico into the U.S., according to court documents.
Oswaldo Lopez-Escobar, a Mexican national in his early 40s, arrived in a tractor-trailer at the Mariposa Port of Entry shortly before noon on Oct. 4 in Nogales, Arizona.
During a secondary inspection, border officers ran the vehicle through a multi-energy portal and found anomalies in the trailer’s floor.
A drug-sniffing dog then alerted border officers, who found 155 packages containing just under 1,300 pounds of cocaine. Officers also found about 13 pounds of ketamine, a dissociative anesthetic that has some hallucinogenic effects.
Lopez-Escobar told investigators he didn’t know he was transporting narcotics. However, he said he had used that same vehicle to drive “illegal items” into the U.S. at least two times before, according to court documents obtained by Border Report.
He added that he crossed this and the two other “illegal loads” for his boss and that he was paid $50 each time.
Court documents state that Lopez-Escobar said his boss’ boss, whom he’d never met, threatened him, which is why he continued to cross loads. He said he never reported any threats to law enforcement in Mexico or the U.S.
The cocaine uncovered on Oct. 4 had an estimated street value between $10.7 million and $12.5 million, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona.
Lopez-Escobar was charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine. He faces life in prison with a minimum of 10 years and a fine of $10 million. He also faces a lifetime of supervised release with a minimum of five years.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Drug Enforcement Administration conducted the interdiction and subsequent investigation in this case. The United States Attorney’s Office in Tucson is handling the prosecution.