Married couple sentenced for role in smuggling attempt

McALLEN — A husband and wife from Mexico were sentenced for their roles in an attempt to smuggle cocaine into the country, court records show.

Luis Cantu-Gea, 30, and Yessica Martinez-Leos, of Reynosa, were each handed 87-month prison sentences Thursday during their respective sentencing hearings.

In February, both defendants pleaded guilty to importing a controlled substance; in exchange, government prosecutors agreed to dismiss the remaining three charges the pair faced, including conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, and attempt/conspiracy to import/export a controlled substance, court records show.

The married couple was arrested nearly a year ago at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers after they discovered packages of what was later identified as cocaine within the vehicle Cantu-Gea was driving.

On Oct. 24, 2017, Cantu-Gea drove into the port of entry with his wife, Martinez-Leos, as his passenger, and they were referred by CBP officers for a secondary inspection.

During the secondary inspection of the vehicle, which was not identified in the complaint, CBP officers used an X-Ray machine to scan the vehicle.

“In secondary inspection, a more intensive inspection was conducted with a gamma ray machine where anomalies were discovered in the gas tank area of the vehicle,” the complaint states.

Officers then used a canine to do a search near the gas tank, which led to an alert from the narcotics dog.

As a result, officers found 14 packages inside the vehicle’s gas tank.

The contents of the packages, identified as cocaine, weighed 17.36 kilos, the complaint states.

Both Cantu-Gea and Martinez-Leos were arrested and spoke with federal agents from U.S. Homeland Security Investigations.

During the interview, Martinez-Leos told agents that she and her husband entered into an agreement with an individual they met through an acquaintance to cross drugs from Reynosa to the U.S., and were expecting to be paid $1,500 for her role in the scheme.

Cantu-Gea, during his time with the federal agents, recited the same narrative as his wife, saying that unknown persons in Reynosa had agreed to compensate them monetarily for smuggling cocaine into the U.S., the complaint states.

The pair, who do not have legal status to be in the U.S., will likely be deported at the end of their 87-month prison sentences.