A middle-aged woman working as a cash courier and narcotics smuggler for a Mexican drug cartel operating in New Mexico has been sent to prison. The woman had previously been convicted of using her car to hide drug loads or cash bundles in order to cross international bridges.
This week, 50-year-old Yolanda Rodriguez appeared before a U.S. District Judge who sentenced her to a year and three months in federal prison and three years of supervised release. Rodriguez is a U.S. citizen who lived in Mexico while working for the cartel.
Court documents do not identify the Mexican cartel by name but reveal that the criminal organization’s areas of operation were predominantly in Chihuahua, Mexico and on the U.S. side in New Mexico and Western Texas. According to court records, those areas are largely dominated by the Juarez Cartel, also known as La Linea. The region also sees trafficking by the Sinaloa Cartel to a lesser extent.
Rodriguez is one of 20 cartel members named in a 45-count criminal indictment targeting the cartel cell responsible for moving large quantities or marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. Some of the cases listed by prosecutors in the case include the sale of drug loads to undercover drug agents in Las Cruces, New Mexico, the delivery of drugs to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the collection of hundreds of thousands of dollars for the sale of cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine.
The cartel cell would use drug smugglers who would trek through the remote areas in the desert in order to get through the U.S. border in New Mexico. The backpackers would make their way to a particular spot along Interstate Highway 10 near Deming and wait for other cartel members to pick up the drug load. The drugs would be taken to cartel stash houses and later moved to Albuquerque. From there, the drugs would be transported to Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, and other areas throughout the nation.
In the case of cocaine or heroin, the cartel cell would cross the drugs through various international bridges by hiding the drug loads in vehicles, sneaking past U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspections. Cartel members would send the drug proceeds to the Mexican state of Chihuahua by hiding bundles of cash inside tractor-trailers and other vehicles. The cartel members used cash or marijuana to pay for firearms bought in the U.S. including an M-60 machine gun that was then smuggled into Mexico.
According to prosecutors, Rodriguez joined the cartel cell in February 2015 in order to transport drugs hidden in a car battery. Of the 20 cartel members named in the indictment, 13 have been arrested; 11 pleaded guilty while two members including Rodriguez went to trial and were convicted. Seven other cartel members remain as fugitives.
Ildefonso Ortiz is an award-winning journalist with Breitbart Texas. He co-founded the Cartel Chronicles project with Brandon Darby and Stephen K. Bannon. You can follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.