MCALLEN–The final defendant involved in a complex scheme to smuggle more than $3 million on a bus headed into Mexico without declaring it has decided to take a plea deal.
Marcial Santana-Aleman, 47, a Mexican citizen who is a legal permanent resident residing in Buford, Ga., pleaded guilty Friday before Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) agents stopped a southbound commercial passenger bus at the Hidalgo International Bridge last September.
A search of passenger luggage resulted in the discovery of nearly $3.2 million sealed in air mattresses hidden in luggage.
All 13 passengers charged have admitted to intentionally concealing the currency in an attempt to evade declaring sums of money above $10,000 before leaving the United States with the intention of taking the currency to Mexico.
Santana-Aleman and all of his co-defendants face a maximum punishment of five years in federal prison without parole and a fine of up to $250,000.
All defendants have agreed to forfeit their interest in the money seized to the United States.
Judge Hinojosa has set sentencing for June 2. Santana- Aleman is in custody and will remain in custody pending his sentencing.
–South Texas Tribune, firstname.lastname@example.org
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