Feds find more than 300 pounds of meth in unsuspecting driver’s avocado shipment

Federal agents arrested a Mexican man on Friday who owns a trucking company on accusations of smuggling 326 pounds of methamphetamine and 2 pounds of heroin.

The man, however, wasn’t driving and later told agents he agreed to smuggle the drugs because he was in debt $100,000 to people in Mexico, according to a criminal complaint.

Hermenegildo Espino Trejo made a first appearance in federal court Monday on drug trafficking and aiding and abetting charges.

According to a criminal complaint, the investigation leading to Espino’s arrest began after another man hauling avocados applied for admission into the United States through the Pharr port of entry.

The driver was referred for a “non-intrusive” exam because of its minimal crossing history, which is where U.S. Customs and Border Protection says they found anomalies in the trailer’s floor.

(Like news? Get our headlines in your inbox each morning.)

CBP officers questioned the driver, who said he was going to deliver the truck to its original driver, Espino, who was waiting for him at the Valero near the intersection of Military Highway and South Cage Boulevard, according to the complaint.

During the exam, a drug-sniffing dog alerted to the presence of narcotics, according to federal agents.

“(CBP officers) drilled several holes around the suspect area; officers used a probe to extract a white powdery subtance yielding a positive field test result for the properties of methamphetamine,” according to the complaint.

CBP reports that it found 48 bricks of methamphetamine weighing a little more than 326 pounds and a brick of heroin that weighed about two pounds.

Homeland Security Investigations agents then conducted surveillance at the Valero and at about 10:27 p.m. they spotted a man matching Espino’s description, according to the complaint.

“The driver was the only male standing outside the parking lot at the time. (Special agents) consensually approached the male, identified themselves as law enforcement and asked him if he needed assistance,” according to the complaint.

The man told them that he was waiting for his driver so he could deliver the avocados and returned to Mexico, according to the complaint.

The federal agents say they detained the man.

During an interview with the original driver, the man told HSI that he had been driving for two Mexican trucking companies and had never had problems crossing into the U.S. That man said he had been working for Espino’s company for about nine months, according to the complaint.

He told special agents that he had driven from Michoacán to Reynosa where he met with Espino at a Mexican import lot, according to federal authorities.

“Espino ordered (the driver) to drive the tractor and trailer with avocados to the U.S. because he had driven too many hours,” the criminal complaint states.

The driver told federal agents that he had no idea about the drugs or any prior drug shipments, which Espino later confirmed, authorities say in the charging document.

“Espino explained he became involved in drug trafficing (sic) in order to pay off approximately $100,000 in debt he had acquired from certain individuals in Mexico,” according to the complaint.

Espino is being temporarily held without bond pending a probable cause and detention hearing, which is scheduled for later this week, records show.