Alton woman sentenced in drug conspiracy

DOCS: She had made 5, 6, prior trips running drugs

In this Aug. 30, 2018 file photo, cameras scan vehicles entering through the Anzaldua port of entry to capture facial biometrics as they wait to enter the United States from Mexico in Mission. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

An Alton woman will serve 19 months in federal prison in connection with a drug smuggling case from August 2019, records show.

On Friday, a federal judge sentenced Veronica Belland to a 19-month prison sentence for her role in a drug conspiracy that netted U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers more than 16 kilos of cocaine at a port of entry, the court notes show.

Belland, 44, was referred for a secondary inspection on Aug. 19, 2020, as she attempted to enter the country from Mexico, the complaint states.

During the secondary inspection, CBP officers used an x-ray scan and determined anomalies were present in Belland’s vehicle in a prior attempt to enter the country.

“A subsequent X-ray scan revealed anomalies in the center console of the vehicle and a manual inspection produced fifteen (15) packages concealed under the center console which contained a white powdery substance that field tested positive for the properties of cocaine,” the document states.

A total of 15 packages of 16.88 kilograms of cocaine was extracted from Belland’s vehicle.

After the discovery, Belland told officers that she had made several smuggling trips in the past.

“During the interview, Belland admitted to knowledge that she was transporting illegal drugs into the United States from Mexico and stated that she believed the vehicle contained cocaine,” the document states.

“Belland stated she was going to be paid $2,500 in U.S. currency for the trip and estimated that she had made approximately five (5) or six (6) prior successful trips where she transported a drug laden vehicle into the United States.”

In March of this year, Belland agreed to plead guilty to count 2 against her, import of a controlled substance, records show As part of the plea deal Belland signed, the court agreed to dismiss the remaining three charges she was facing.

In addition to the 19-month prison sentence; Belland will be required to serve two years of supervised release upon completion of the prison sentence.