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Mexican man pleads guilty to attempting to smuggle more than 3 tons of marijuana

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A second man, one of eight charged, pleaded guilty Wednesday in a Las Cruces, N.M., federal court to conspiracy and possessing more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana with intent to distribute.

Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) U.S. Border Patrol El Paso Sector participated in this investigation.

Jose Domingo Jasso-Topete, 34, an illegal alien from Mexico, is one of eight Mexican nationals arrested shortly after midnight March 24, 2013, by Border Patrol agents after they observed five vehicles breach the International Border Fence south of Animas, N.M.

The agents conducted surveillance as the vehicles drove northbound in a convoy.The agents moved in when four of the vehicles crashed into each other.The agents arrested eight individuals and took control of four vehicles that contained 3,154 kilograms (6,953 pounds) of marijuana. The fifth car fled south back to Mexico.

The eight defendants initially were charged in four criminal complaints.They were subsequently indicted together and charged with conspiracy and possessing more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana with intent to distribute.Four defendants also were charged with re-entering the United States after having been previously deported, which is a felony.

During Wednesday’s proceedings, Jasso-Topete pleaded guilty to counts one and two of the indictment.

In his plea agreement, Jasso-Topete acknowledged that on March 24 he was in a vehicle that was part of a five-vehicle convoy that smuggled about 3,000 kilograms (6,614 pounds) of marijuana from Mexico into the United States.He admitted that on the night of March 24, he and seven others crossed from Mexico into New Mexico and drove through the desert until Border Patrol agents arrested them.

He further admitted that the five vehicles, which were covered with camouflage tarps and driven without headlights, were loaded with marijuana that the defendants intended to deliver to others in the United States.

Jasso-Topete faces a maximum prison sentence of life imprisonment. He has been in federal custody since his arrest and remains detained pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.

Co-defendant Francisco Flores-Enriquez, 26, also an illegal alien from Mexico, pleaded guilty July 26 to conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute.He also faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The remaining six co-defendants have entered not guilty pleas and are detained pending trial.

The charges in the indictment against the six co-defendants are merely accusations, and they are presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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