Hurricane Harvey was barreling toward Texas when a Houston man fled with his wife, baby and nearly 7 kilos of cocaine.
Their trip to Atlanta ended in Hancock County, where a deputy sheriff pulled over the car they were traveling in and found the cocaine.
The drugs were in the trunk near the back seats, where Rodolfo Ortuno’s baby boy was riding in the vehicle.
Ortuno, 26, told drug agents he would have been paid $7,000 to drive the vehicle to Atlanta, a court paper says.
Instead, he faces a possible sentence of life in prison.
Ortuno pleaded guilty on a drug trafficking charge Friday in U.S. District Court.
A deputy had arrested Ortuno on Aug. 24, 2017, the day before Harvey struck the Texas Gulf Coast. Ortuno has been held for federal marshals since his arrest.
The deputy had pulled over the car on Interstate 10 near the Mississippi Welcome Center for careless driving, reporting the car had crossed the fog line, a DEA Task Force agent wrote in a criminal complaint. A fog line is the white line on the side of a road that marks the legally drivable side.
The eastbound car, a Hyundai Sonata, had an expired temporary tag and was registered to someone else, the agent said.
Ortuno also is under investigation for a May 10, 2017, traffic stop in Hancock County. He was driving a Ford-F 150 when a deputy reportedly found a large, unspecified amount of money hidden in the pickup.
Ortuno told officers he was being paid to take the money from Houston to Miami, the agent said.
Judge Louis Guirola Jr. will sentence him April 25 on the drug charge from his arrest in August.
Ortuno also faces a maximum fine of $10 million.
DEA Task Force Officer Howard O’Gwin investigated the case.
The prosecutor is Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathlyn R. Van Buskir.