A man has been sentenced to three years in prison after attempting to smuggle weed into the US as a way to save the life of his apparently kidnapped wife.
33-year-old resident of Mexico, Rueben Maldonada-Espino, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import and importing more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana back in July, but received his 36-month prison sentence just this week. However, he is “expected to face removal proceedings following the sentence,” because he is not a US citizen.
Back in May of 2019, Maldonardo-Espino was attempting to enter the US from Mexico via the World Trade Bridge near Laredo, Texas, when border agents grew suspicious and chose to further inspect the trailer.
A canine and non-intrusive imaging system examination was done on the trailer, and officers noticed discrepancies between what they found and the truck’s manifest, which described the shipment as ‘motor vehicle parts.’
As the officers went to open the trailer, Maldonardo-Espino admitted that he knew drugs were inside. The officers then discovered 198 bundles of weed weighing in at 4,600 pounds with a street value of approximately $875,000 according to the Southern District of Texas arm of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Maldonardo-Espino then told officers that “a Mexican drug cartel was holding his wife hostage and forced him to smuggle the narcotics.”
Authorities then attempted to check the driver’s story by calling his wife who answered the call and “appeared to be calm and not under distress.”
“Falsely claiming your family is being threatened hurts others — those that actually do have that happen,” said the district judge in a statement to court. “More who falsely claim the cartel is threatening them could cause authorities to be less inclined to believe them,” they added.
Maldonardo-Espino is currently in custody and will remain there pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.