Ganja art? Trucker-posing feds find ton of marijuana inside pottery

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer | Monday, July 14, 2008

Eight defendants have pleaded guilty to importing more than 2,200 pounds of marijuana from Mexico using pottery.

The guilty pleas followed an investigation in which federal agents posed as a trucking company to pick up and deliver the drugs.

Jose Sandoval, 19, Roberto Mota, 27, Roberto Hildalgo, 21, and Antonio Herrera-Espinoza, 30, pleaded guilty in federal court to distributing and possessing with intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana. Juan Carlos Torres, 19, Gavin James Herremans, 25, and Christopher James Johnson, 29, pleaded guilty to reduced charges, according to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement news release.

According to ICE, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in Baltimore discovered the drugs among 193 Mexican pottery vases in January.

Later, two Baltimore ICE agents posed as employees of a commercial trucking company, and delivered the shipment to a warehouse in Edwardsburg, MI.

ICE agents met at the warehouse with Herremans, Roberto Mota, Hildalgo, Herrera-Espinoza, Torres, Sandoval and a juvenile. Herremans signed for the load as others unloaded the vases into two U-Haul trucks.

Agents arrested the defendants as they tried to leave the warehouse.

Humberto Mota – who ran an unnamed business out of Elkhart, IN – remains at large, according to the release.

“ICE will continue to pursue organizations that smuggle and distribute commercial quantities of illicit drugs,” said Brian Moskowitz, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Detroit. “ICE uses our broad and unique law enforcement authorities and expertise to dismantle these criminal groups to help ensure the integrity of our nation’s borders, and to help keep illegal drugs off our streets.”

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