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  3. HSI San Diego Investigation Results in Second Person Pleading Guilty to Drug Trafficking, Admitting to Manufacturing Evidence for ‘Blind Mule’ Defense

HSI San Diego Investigation Results in Second Person Pleading Guilty to Drug Trafficking, Admitting to Manufacturing Evidence for ‘Blind Mule’ Defense

Release Date: March 14, 2024

SAN DIEGO — Sergio Maximiliano Martinez of Portland, Oregon, became the second person to plead guilty in federal court March 12 to drug trafficking and obstruction of justice charges in a case that began last spring, when Martinez’s then-girlfriend Victoria Carmona was caught trying to smuggle over 40 pounds of cocaine into the United States in her car.

“Drug smuggling organizations continually attempt to develop new methods and evade law enforcement. However, HSI special agents are committed to investigating these individuals and dismantling these organizations, as demonstrated through their hard work on this investigation,” said HSI San Diego Special Agent in Charge Chad Plantz. “I am proud of the dedicated special agents that continually pursue these investigations and hold these individuals and organizations accountable for their illicit activity.”

The obstruction charges stem from Carmona’s and Martinez’s extensive efforts to concoct a cover story beforehand, which Carmona then presented to law enforcement agents to paint herself as an unwitting drug courier, sometimes referred to as a “blind mule.”

According to the indictment and plea agreement, Martinez and Carmona conspired together and with others to import illicit narcotics into the United States from Mexico. The conspiracy culminated in Carmona’s arrest at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on Feb. 20, 2023, after she imported 19.22 kilograms (42.37 pounds) of cocaine into the United States in her vehicle.

After her arrest, as part of the planned cover story, Carmona claimed she was unaware of the hidden drugs but had recently accepted a job offer on Facebook to pick up cash in the United States and transport it to Mexico. The individual who hired her, Carmona suggested, must have planted the drugs in her car without her knowledge. Carmona showed investigators detailed Facebook Messenger conversations purportedly between herself and the individual that supposedly confirmed her account.

Both defendants, however, admitted in their plea agreements that the Facebook Messenger conversations were fraudulent. Martinez, posing as Carmona’s fictional employer, sent the messages to Carmona to make it appear she was tricked into smuggling narcotics if she was arrested. In his plea agreement, Martinez admitted helping Carmona smuggle drugs into the United States seven times and falsifying Facebook Messenger communications before each trip to give her a false cover story in case she got caught.

“The scheme concocted in this case demonstrates how far smugglers will go to evade detection,” said U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath. “Yet even with an elaborate cover story, the truth came out and these defendants were held accountable.”

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 3 before U.S. District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel.

This case is being prosecuted by the Southern District of California, U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Last Updated: 04/22/2024
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