A Houston, Texas, woman found in Gulfport with 11 kilos of cocaine has been fined $5,000 and sentenced to nearly four years in prison.
Maria Cristina Esquivel, 57, was sentenced Wednesday before Chief U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. Guirola ordered a 46-month prison term followed by three years of post-release supervision.
She faced a maximum prison term of five years on a guilty plea in a conspiracy involving cocaine trafficking.
The cocaine was found in the seat cushions of the pickup truck she was driving when she was arrested on Interstate 10 in November.
A state trooper had stopped her Nov. 24 for careless driving, court records show. She was eastbound between the Canal Road and U.S. 49 exits.
The trooper reported Esquivel said she was heading to Charlotte, North Carolina, for a several-day stay; she had no luggage, but she had a bus ticket to travel from Houston to Mexico the next night, a court document said. The destination was Monterrey, the capital city of Nuevo Leon, Mexico.
She also had $1,000 in cash and Mexican identification in her maiden name.
Esquivel agreed to a search. The cocaine was packed in nine bundles in seat cushions in the truck’s second-row seats.
Esquivel has been a U.S. citizen since she was 16, travels to Mexico frequently and had gone to Mexico earlier that month, a Homeland Security Investigations agent has testified.
A grand jury indicted her Dec. 8 on one count each of conspiracy, possession with intent to distribute cocaine and interstate travel in aid of drug racketeering enterprises.
She pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge May 25.
The remaining charges will be dismissed as part of her plea agreement.