Two recent Interstate 10 traffic stops have turned up large amounts of cocaine and bundles of smuggled cash, federal court papers show.
A Gulfport police officer assigned to a DEA Task Force found 8 kilos, or 17.6 pounds, of cocaine when he pulled over a Chevrolet Malibu with a Texas license plate on traffic violations Jan. 3 at the 36-mile marker.
Leonardo Villarreal Garza, also known as Leonardo Villareal, 26, said he’d bought the car two weeks earlier and didn’t know drugs were hidden in it, an affidavit says. Garza reportedly told the officer he’d left Houston that morning to visit an aunt in Orlando, Florida — but he didn’t know her address.
Garza had crossed the Mexican border at Laredo, Texas, the day before, a task force agent said in a sworn statement.
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Garza is held with no bond pending a grand jury review.
In the other stop, Rafael Castro-Jimenez, 33, was indicted Monday in a case of alleged cash smuggling. Twenty-nine cellophane-wrapped bundles of cash were found in his Jeep Wrangler on Dec. 9.
A state trooper had pulled him over near the 45-mile marker and a Harrison County sheriff’s K-9 named Gunny alerted to something suspicious in the Jeep, an affidavit says. The cash was found in a spare tire, but the document did not specify how much.
A Border Patrol agent was called to translate for Jimenez, who reportedly said he had been in Atlanta and was returning to McAllen, Texas. Homeland Security Investigations was called to investigate further.
Jimenez faces a charge of interstate and foreign travel in aid of racketeering enterprises. He will be arraigned Jan. 19.