U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents convinced smugglers to pay them $39,000 to transport cocaine from the Rio Grande Valley to Florida — and arrested the smugglers after collecting the cash, according to a federal criminal complaint.
In mid-June, an undercover agent contacted a drug trafficking organization that wanted to move cocaine from the Valley to Florida.
A 48-year-old United States citizen named Salomon Rivera met with the undercover agent at an Academy Sports + Outdoors store in McAllen.
Rivera handed the undercover agent a black plastic storage bin packed with 36.2 kilograms of cocaine, according to the criminal complaint.
After the meeting, the undercover agent talked with a Mexican citizen named Juan Perez-Estrada, who wanted the cocaine transported to Florida, according to the criminal complaint. The undercover agent said the cocaine had arrived in Florida and was stashed with a cousin.
A few days later, Perez paid the undercover agent $12,000 cash, according to the criminal complaint. Perez paid the remaining money during a meeting at the La Quinta Inn and Suites in Pharr on July 5.
Rivera and Perez are charged with possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter E. Ormsby ordered Perez held without bond. Rivera had bond set at $75,000 with a 5 percent deposit.
Attorneys for Rivera and Perez didn't respond to requests for comment.