Reynosa doctor sentenced to more than 3 years in smuggling case

McALLEN — A doctor from Reynosa will serve 40 months in federal prison for his role in smuggling cocaine into the country.

Dante Jaime Yoplac-Augustín, 38, stood before U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez on Tuesday to face sentencing in a case related to his March arrest at the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge.

In early May, Yoplac pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import a controlled substance related to his attempt to smuggle in 38 kilos of cocaine through a port of entry, court records show.

Government prosecutors alleged Yoplac was part of a drug trafficking ring, along with Jorge Montoya-Rivera, 51, that moved cocaine into the country using altered vehicles to conceal the narcotics.

For his part, Yoplac said he was forced to smuggle cocaine as part of a debt he owed to a drug cartel.

Yoplac, who is a naturalized Mexican citizen originally from Peru, said he became involved in the conspiracy after he had accrued a debt of about 50,000 Mexican pesos, or about $2,700, with an unnamed drug cartel organization.

He stated during a hearing in May that his only role in the conspiracy was driving vehicles from one location to another in order to “pay down his debt.”

Yoplac was arrested March 11 by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working on the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge moments after another man, later identified as Montoya-Rivera, was arrested attempting to drive through the port of entry with cocaine hidden within his vehicle, the complaint states. Yoplac was walking through the port when he was arrested.

“Yoplac-Augustín stated, he assumed, the only logical thing that could be in the vehicle was drugs, but he did not want to ask his employers,” the complaint states.

A week before his arrest, he said he waited for Montoya-Rivera to cross into the United States so that he could pick up the vehicle in order to move it to a different location where another unnamed person would take over the vehicle, the complaint states.

Montoya-Rivera was later identified as Yoplac’s alleged co-conspirator and admitted to being paid on prior occasions to drive into the United States. He said the vehicle he was driving was registered under his name by a man he was introduced to by Yoplac in Mexico.

Montoya-Rivera, who remains in custody, is scheduled to be sentenced in early September.

Yoplac, who does not have legal authorization to live in the country, will likely be deported upon comple-tion of his prison term.