Ice chest full of meth lands Mexican man nearly 6 years in federal prison

A federal judge on Monday sentenced a 25-year-old Mexican man to nearly six years in prison for trafficking approximately 308 pounds of methamphetamine last year.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Jose Maria Hernandez-Alvarez — who pleaded guilty on Dec. 3, 2021, to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance — to five years and eight months in prison.

Hernandez-Alvarez, who had been illegally living in Monte Alto, is expected to be deported following the completion of his prison sentence, according to a news release from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.

A criminal complaint said the large drug seizure followed a traffic stop on Sept. 8, 2021, at approximately 3:15 p.m. by a Hidalgo County Precinct 4 Constable for failing to maintain a single lane.

The news release said the traffic stop happened while law enforcement were conducting surveillance on Hernandez-Alvarez, who was driving a red Volkswagen Jetta.

During the traffic stop, Hernandez-Alvarez told the constable he did not have a driver’s license and that the officer requested to search the vehicle to which he consented, according to a criminal complaint.

“As the Deputy Constable returned from his vehicle with a consent to search document, the Deputy Constable noticed a small clear baggie containing a white powdery substance on the roadway right where Hernandez-Alvarez was standing,” the complaint stated. “The Deputy Constable asked Hernandez-Alvarez what was in the small baggie near Hernandez-Alvarez, to which Hernandez-Alvarez stated he was not sure what it was and did not claim ownership.”

During the search, the constable discovered what turned out to be a little more than 34 pounds of methamphetamine inside an ice chest, according to the news release.

The complaint said he admitted the methamphetamine was his and further told the constable that he had approximately 66 to 110 pounds of the drug at his Edcouch residence.

A search warrant determined that amount was actually approximately 271 pounds, according to the complaint.

The news release said the estimated street value of the total seizure is nearly a half-million dollars, or $490,000.

“Hernandez stated he had been living in the United States for three months and, during that time, had received three shipments of meth from Mexico,” the release stated.

Court records indicate he reached a plea deal with prosecutors, who on Monday made an oral motion to dismiss a charge of controlled substance – sell, distribute or dispense, which Crane, the judge, granted.

He has remained in federal custody since his arrest.

The release said the case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration with the assistance of the Hidalgo County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force.