Drug Smuggling Trucker Recants Elaborate Hostage Hoax, Faces Life in Prison
Laredo, TX – A 30-year-old Mexican trucker is facing up to life in prison after admitting to conspiracy to import and importing more than two tons of marijuana.
Last week, in U.S. District Court, Ruben Maldonado-Espino, of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a big rig drug bust earlier this year.
According to court documents, on May 7, Maldonado-Espino drove a semi-truck and trailer through the World Trade Bridge near Laredo.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents then conducted an x-ray examination of the vehicle which revealed anomalies in the trailer.
Agents then began to open the doors, at which time Maldonado-Espino admitted he was transporting drugs in the trailer.
When questioned further, he claimed a Mexican drug cartel was holding his wife hostage and forcing him to smuggle the narcotics.
Maldonado gave authorities quite an elaborate story.
He claimed that approximately two weeks prior to the bust, he was approached by a man named “Negro” who offered him $5,000 to transport narcotics into the U.S.
Maldonado-Espino told authorities he declined the offer, but Negro persuaded him by threatening to shoot his wife and kids if he did not comply.
Maldonado-Espino said a couple of weeks later he was confronted by eight masked men in two vehicles while driving south in Mexico.
According to the affidavit, he claimed he had just picked up an empty trailer in the U.S.
The masked men escorted Maldonado-Espino to a truck yard where the marijuana was loaded into the trailer, he claimed.
He stated he knew it was marijuana because the men told him.
“The men had weapons and escorted Maldonado-Espino all the way to the line to enter the United States. Maldonado-Espino stated that during the drive, the men put his wife on the phone. Maldonado-Espino stated his wife had a mask pulled over her face and she was scared,” states an affidavit.
At the time of the bust, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents called Maldonado-Espino’s wife and described her as “calm” and “not under duress.”
Upon further questioning, “Maldoando-Espino eventually admitted that the information about his wife being held hostage was not the truth,” court documents say.
Maldonado-Espino also claimed he was instructed to give that excuse to law enforcement if caught.
In total, CBP agents found 198 bundles of marijuana in the trailer weighing approximately 4,601 pounds.
The estimated street value is $875,000, court documents say.
U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo will sentence Maldonado-Espino on October 28.
He faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison.
He has been and will remain in custody pending that hearing.