14 arrested for smuggling $3.1 million aboard Mexico-bound bus

Fourteen passengers from a tour bus bound for Mexico are facing federal charges after being arrested at an international bridge under cash smuggling charges.

All were charged with for knowingly conspiring to evade currency transaction reporting requirements of $3.1 million in U.S. currency concealed in luggage said United States Attorney Jos Angel Moreno.

Seven passengers were United States cities and the other seven were Mexican nationals.

All were arrested Sunday, September 26th at the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge.

Authorities reported that an intensive inspection of the tour bus resulted in the discovery of 17 pieces of luggage - each containing hundreds of thousands of dollars in U.S. currency. In all 17 pieces of luggage, the cash was found wrapped in deflated air mattresses.

This seizure of $3.1 million in undeclared currency and 14 arrests, the largest currency seizure by CBP in Fiscal Year 2010, is a magnificent achievement and serves as a validation of our enhanced outbound enforcement effort, which includes not only CBP officers and agents but also ICE-Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents, said Commissioner Alan Bersin in a written statement.

The fourteen passengers arrested and charged are:

U.S. Citizens:

Bianca Tapia-Pineda Jobanni Hernandez Gabriella Hernandez Alejandro Camacho Elizabeth Cornejo Leticia Urieta-Aguirre Jonathan Nathan Gaona

Mexican Citizens:

Rene Fernando Espinoza-Borjas Maria Urieta Marcial Santana-Aleman Pedro Sanchez Aviles Jacinto Magadan Cuevas Margarita Patricia Jones Irma Echeverria-Vega

All fourteen individuals made their initial appearance before United States Magistrate Judge Peter E. Ormsby in McAllen yesterday and have been ordered temporarily detained pending detention hearings scheduled for Oct. 1, 2010.

A charge of conspiracy to smuggle bulk currency out of the United States carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a fine up to $250,000 and a term of supervised release.