A US citizen accused of transporting more than $345,000 in cash bound for Mexico from Houston has been sentenced to more than two years in federal prison.
Esteban Garza, of unknown age and address, admitted to working for a transnational criminal organization and helping transport large sums of money that were the proceeds of “illegal criminal activity,” federal criminal complaint says. says.
Garza appeared before federal judge Fernando Rodriguez Jr. on Thursday and was sentenced to 25 months in federal prison, then released after two years of supervision.
On May 3, 2022, Garza pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to launder financial instruments, federal court documents reflect.
Homeland Security Investigation investigators received information in January 2022 that Garza was involved in the transportation of large amounts of U.S. currency, the federal criminal complaint states.
HSI agents began monitoring Garza’s movement patterns, and on January 9, 2022, a white Jeep Cherokee believed to be driven by Garza was spotted returning from Houston to the Rio Grande Valley.
Agents began tracking the Jeep as it passed U.S. Highway 77/83 in Harlingen and noted during surveillance that “driving behavior by Garza is consistent with methods used by criminal elements to thwart law enforcement detection. and observed the indicator,” said the federal criminal complaint.
Authorities followed Garza into Brownsville and interviewed Garza in the parking lot of the Academy sporting goods store in Brownsville, along with police K-9 from the Harlingen Police Department.
The K-9 “performed a free-air detection of the vehicle, which resulted in a positive K-9 alarm,” the federal criminal complaint states.
Garza agrees to have agents search the Jeep, finding 25 bundles of money wrapped in cellophane hidden inside the vehicle.
He admitted to being paid to carry the money, the federal criminal complaint says.
A February 1, 2022 federal indictment found that Garza was in possession of $345,880 when he was arrested.
According to the indictment, Garza “willfully carried out and attempted to carry out financial transactions affecting interstate and foreign commerce, namely, using Jeep vehicles to receive U.S. currency and deliver to Brownsville, Texas. Hiding the currency in transit, the final destination is Mexico.”
Garza was ordered to surrender to federal marshals on February 17 and begin his prison sentence.