Tuesday, April 23, 2013



Note: A look at one of the smaller, less able operations. Another
"victimless" crime.

Marijuana-smuggling attempt turns into burglary, van theft
Posted: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 8:35 am

Marijuana-smuggling attempt turns into burglary, van theft
By Jonathan Clark
Nogales International

After crossing the border illegally near Nogales in late January, the
group of four Mexican marijuana smugglers and their guide spent days
wandering the local scrublands before they ran out of food and water.

"The guide said it would take several days to get to the
destination," one of the group members told an adult probation
officer during a pre-sentence interview. "I think the
'coyote' (guide) got us lost."

The group ended up in a flood wash somewhere between Rio Rico and
Tubac, and after the guide and a smuggler made an unsuccessful run in
search of food and water, the guide announced that he was going to
get them a vehicle, according to court documents based on police
reports and defendant statements.

He recruited two of the smugglers to go with him, and they broke into
a house in Rio Rico, stealing clothes, watches, jewelry and car keys,
as well as a van packed with a church band's equipment that had been
parked at the home.

Later that night, Border Patrol agents arrested at least four members
of the group after a pursuit that ended when they crashed the stolen
van into a ditch.

On Monday, the second member of the group to be convicted in the case
– 20-year-old Abel Anguiano De la Torre – was sentenced in Santa Cruz
County Superior Court to one year in state prison. He earlier pleaded
guilty to attempted unlawful use of means of transportation, a Class
6 felony.

Judge James A. Soto told Anguiano – a first-time offender who
apparently carried marijuana over the border but didn't participate
in the burglary or van theft – that he might serve only four months
in prison before he is released and deported back to Mexico. (He has
already spent 81 days at the county jail, and in addition, Arizona
law allows prisons to turn non-citizens over to Immigration and
Customs Enforcement for deportation once they have served 50 percent
of their term). Once he's back in Mexico, the judge said, Anguiano
may be tempted to try another drug–smuggling run.

He advised against it.
"You're not very good at it," Soto said. "You got caught once, and if
you come back again, you'll probably get caught again."

With a felony conviction now on his record, a second conviction could
mean a much longer stint behind bars, the judge said.

On April 15, Soto sentenced a co-defendant, 23-year-old Christian
Somosa-Peña, to 1.5 years in prison for the same Class 6 felony
conviction, court records show.

Charges are still pending against co-defendants Jesus Francisco
Rivero-Lopez, 30, and Jose Odilon Jauregui-Rodriguez, 21. The alleged
fifth member of the group was not charged in county court in
connection with the case, and an on-line federal court database
showed no charges pending against him there, either.

The county jail had no record of having admitted the fifth suspect,
and while his name shows up in the other defendants' files, it was
not clear if the Border Patrol ever arrested him.

Bad choices

According to police reports and pre-sentence statements from Somosa
and Anguiano, the group crossed the border on around Jan. 21, with
four of the men packing marijuana bundles weighing approximately 49
pounds each. The fifth man acted as the guide.

When the guide and the two smugglers burglarized the home in Rio
Rico, they made entry by breaking a window. "One or more of the
burglars was cut or injured when the window was broken," Somosa's pre-
sentence report says, and police found blood evidence in several
parts of the home. Rivero allegedly had cuts on both his hands and
blood on his shoes when he was arrested.

After the three men ransacked the home and made off with the van,
they went back to the riverbed to pick up the two remaining members
of the group. Some time after, a resident of Tubac called the U.S.
Border Patrol to report that the occupants of a suspicious vehicle
had cut through a fence.

Agents spotted the vehicle near Agua Linda Road, and attempted to
stop it, the court documents say. But the driver wouldn't yield, and
instead drove the van into a ditch.

The agents arrested the van's occupants, and discovered the marijuana
bundles – as well as the musical equipment – inside the stolen van.
The presence of the equipment, as well as the fact that one of the
suspects was wearing more than one watch, led them to believe that
the smugglers had also been involved in a robbery, and so they
alerted the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office. Four of the five
suspects were then turned over to local authorities for prosecution.

It wasn't clear from the court records what role each suspect played
in the various crimes committed by the group, and Deputy County
Attorney John Holman acknowledged to the judge that the police
reports in the case were "confusing."

Still, the consensus in the courtroom Monday was that there was no
evidence that Anguiano had participated in the burglary or van theft.
"Abel didn't do any of it," defense lawyer Charles Thomas said. "He
had nothing to do with that."

Two co-defendants identified Somosa as the guide and the driver of
the stolen van, the court documents show. For his part, Somosa
claimed during his presentence interview that he was simply trying to
get to Tucson to find work. He said he had no idea that there was
marijuana in the van, and said he didn't even know it was stolen
until the Border Patrol agents started giving chase.

"He seemed to be disingenuous as to the role he played as a member of
the five-man group," Probation Officer Hubert Odom wrote in his pre-
sentence report.

Thomas, the defense attorney, told Judge Soto at Monday's hearing
that if Anguiano hadn't taken the ride in the stolen van and had been
arrested by the Border Patrol only for marijuana smuggling, federal
prosecutors would likely have let him plead to a misdemeanor offense,
punishable by 180 days in prison.

"Are you suggesting it was bad luck he didn't get caught by the
feds?" Soto asked.
Yes, said Thomas, who earlier told the judge that drug smuggling
attempts are "something that happens every day of the week in Arizona."

When it was his turn to address the judge, Anguiano said he was
"If I committed this crime, it was not my intention to affect other
people," he said.
Soto interjected, asking him if he understood how riding in a stolen
van affected other people. "I didn't think at that moment because I
was already in (the van)," he said.

No victims of the burglary and van theft attended Monday's hearing,
but Soto has set a June 17 restitution hearing for Anguiano and
Somosa, at which he will order them to reimburse the victims for any
financial loss related to the crime.


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