Customs broker admits to scheme to export millions of cigarettes into Mexico

Authorities seized millions of cigarettes and equipment valued at approximately $88 million.

A Texas man could be facing a decade in federal prison after he admitted to attempting to smuggle millions of contraband cigarettes into Mexico.

Eighty year old Texas resident Jose Francisco Guerra pled guilty to charges related to a cigarette smuggling attempt, according to a May 26 news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Texas.

Guerra owns and operates a customs brokering service called Victor M. Guerra Inc. out of Hidalgo.

The investigation into the cigarette smuggling scheme began on January 15, 2020, when police stopped a semi truck hauling approximately 17 million cigarettes en route to a location in Mexico.

Officers discovered that the shipping manifest had been falsified as to the vehicle’s contents, and the cigarettes lacked the applicable tax stamp as Texas law requires.

Investigators tracked the shipment of cigarettes to a warehouse in Hidalgo that was controlled and operated by Guerra.

Investigators then learned that Guerra operated a second warehouse in McAllen.

Both warehouses contained a total of 422,917,800 contraband cigarettes that were marked for shipment into Mexico.

The total value of the seized contraband cigarettes and other equipment is estimated at approximately $88 million, federal authorities say.

Guerra admitted to knowingly scheming to smuggle illegal cigarettes into Mexico and agreed to forfeit his customs broker license, pay a fine and forfeit his interest in the cigarettes and items seized from his warehouse.

Guerra’s sentencing date has not yet been set. He faces up to 10 years on federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

The investigation into the scheme was conducted by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations with assistance from the Texas Department of Public Safety.