Woman arrested for attempting to smuggle nearly $200K into Mexico

A Mexican woman was arrested Tuesday after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers found her attempting to cross nearly $200,000 concealed under the front passenger’s floorboard in a “non-factory compartment.”

Laura Loera Flores, who was born in 1987, was charged with knowingly concealing more than $10,000 in currency while attempting to transport such currency from within the United States to a place outside the country.

Last Wednesday, CBP officers encountered Flores driving a white 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee at the Anzalduas Port of Entry and found an empty non-factory compartment under the driver and front passenger’s floorboards.

Traffic is seen backed up on the Anzalduas International Bridge in the the early morning hours of Nov. 8, 2021, in Mission. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

Despite the discovery, the vehicle was clear of any contraband and was allowed into the U.S. until she attempted to exit into Mexico at a later date.

On April 4, the Anti-Terrorism Contraband Enforcement Team for CBP conducted an outbound inspection of the same Jeep at the Pharr Port of Entry at around 5:50 p.m. while Flores attempted to exit the country and travel into Mexico.

During the inspection, Flores gave a negative declaration for firearms, ammunition or currency over $10,000 but was referred to a secondary inspection for an “intensive examination.”

Following a K-9 search and an x-ray, officers conducted a physical search of the vehicle and discovered packages concealed under the front passenger’s floorboard.

“CBP officers discovered a total of 10 bundles of U.S. currency,” the criminal complaint said. “The total amount of U.S. currency concealed under the front passenger’s floorboard was approximately $198,902.00”

A Homeland Security Investigations special agent and CBP Task Force officer both responded to the Pharr part of entry and interviewed Flores.

During the interview, Flores stated that she had the vehicle in her name but that it wasn’t hers.

The Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge is seen in this Sept. 10, 2020, file photo.

She said that she was told by someone in Mexico to drive to Houston to shop for various items and was given the money to do so.

Flores added that the same person said to give the keys to someone who met her in a parking lot of a store in Houston and that same person would return the vehicle.

“[Flores] stated the person had her vehicle for approximately one hour and returned the vehicle to her,” the complaint said. “[Flores] stated she then met up with that person the next day and gathered legitimate items from that person to bring to Mexico.”

She drove down from Houston the same day she was stopped by CBP officers when she attempted to go into Mexico.

When asked if she believed the person she allowed to take her vehicle was doing something illegal or suspicious with it, Flores said yes.

Flores added that she believed the money to be the reason the person took her vehicle instead of her driving to the person’s residence.

She is set to appear before state U.S. Magistrate Judge Nadia S. Medrano for a preliminary examination and detention hearing early next week.