When 43-year-old Silvester Padilla Romero from Tucson was caught at the U.S.-Mexico border with more than 545 pounds of marijuana in his truck, federal agents were quick to pass on his case.
A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent said that federal prosecutors would “decline such a case due to a medical condition that the driver of the vehicle containing the contraband was claiming to have.”
It is unclear, however, what “condition” Padilla has, if any.
According to Nogales International, Padilla was arrested on April 2, 2013, after a drug-sniffing dog alerted officers to drugs in the 43-year-old’s truck at the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry.
More than 110 packages of marijuana, with an estimated street value of $273,000, were ultimately found hidden in panels of Padilla’s truck.
Padilla subsequently told officers that he purchased the truck after sending payments totaling $4,500 to Mexico. He allegedly was not able to pick up the vehicle until months after he paid for it, however, because he “had problems” that landed him in a Tucson jail.
After his release, Padilla reportedly went to Mexico to retrieve the truck and drive it back to the U.S. He claimed to have no knowledge of the narcotics found in the vehicle. He reportedly told investigators, “It was just like the lady in the bus that [unknowingly] found some pot underneath the seat in Mexico.”
Nogales International reported that since federal prosecutors declined the case due to “a mental condition,” Padilla was convicted in a local court instead. The probation officer in that case apparently saw no sign of such a condition.
The defendant is “in overall good health and is not currently taking medication [and] has never been diagnosed with any mental health illnesses,” the prosecutor reportedly said.
Sylvia Longmire, a Breitbart Texas contributing editor and border security expert, said, “There are many instances where a federal agency will pass on a drug case, especially in southwest border areas, because the US Attorney is overwhelmed with cases and the drug load is too small to pursue. In these cases, they’ll be passed on to the state or county for prosecution, as it was for Padilla’s case.”
She continued, “But to pass on a case because of the mental state of the driver for a 545-pound load? I’m not sure the responding ICE agent had the ability to determine the exact mental capacity of a drug smuggler, and it was obvious from the county court proceedings he had no such mental trouble.”
Padilla was ultimately sentenced to 180 days in jail and several years of probation, according to reports. He plead guilty to a felony, one count of unlawful transportation of marijuana.
Large-scale marijuana busts are becoming increasingly common on the U.S.-Mexican border.
Breitbart Texas previously reported that in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley alone, 13,000 pounds of marijuana are confiscated each week. Officials estimate that for every load of marijuana they catch, 10 get through Border Patrol, according to Arizona Central.
Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate.