Second drug courier sentenced in 12-pound crystal meth case

Rene Hernandez
Rene Hernandez

The second of two drug couriers who brought 12 pounds of crystal meth to Gulfport on a bus ride from Texas has been sentenced to prison.

Rene Hernandez, 25, was part of a group from the Houston area that arrived at the Flying J Travel Plaza on Canal Road via an El Expreso Bus in January, court papers show.

The travelers were under surveillance when they reached the truck stop because a confidential source had set up an $84,000 meth deal with a drug broker in Mexico, a DEA Task Force agent wrote in a sworn statement. Some men who made the trip by bus or car had brought their wives and children.

Hernandez had asked Kristina Denise Beldin, 30, to come along and pretend to be his girlfriend. He offered her $1,000 to carry a suitcase containing the drugs. Beldin, the mother of two young children, agreed to accept his offer because she needed money to pay old court fines and probation fees, she wrote in a letter to Chief U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr.

Guirola has sentenced Hernandez to the maximum prison term of five years for interstate travel in aid of drug racketeering enterprises. Guirola also ordered three years of probation and a $3,000 fine at Hernandez’s June 28 sentencing on a guilty plea.

Guirola gave Beldin the same prison term at her June 21 sentencing, and fined her $1,500 and gave her three years of probation.

Carolos Bustos-Tinoco, the alleged drug supplier, was arrested with Hernandez and Beldin and several others in the area of Motel 6 and EconoLodge on U.S. 49.

Tinoco is scheduled to accept a plea deal July 27. He and his five co-defendants were each indicted on charges of conspiracy, possession with intent to distribute meth and interstate travel in aid of drug racketeering.

Jimmy Penaloza-Lopez, 25, is set to plead guilty July 6. His cousin, Christian Penaloza-Mondragon, 18, has pleaded guilty on the interstate travel charge and is held for sentencing Sept. 12.

The last arrested was Arlen Samantha Gauzin-Sanchez. She waived the right to a detention hearing Friday and is held pending trial. A trial date has not yet been set.

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews