Houston Woman Sentenced to Federal Prison for Conspiring to Import Enough Fentanyl To Kill Two Million People

Houston Woman Sentenced to Federal Prison for Conspiring to Import Enough Fentanyl To Kill Two Million People

A 49-year-old Houston woman, Monica Mata Vasquez, has been sentenced to federal prison after being found guilty of conspiring to import fentanyl, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Following a two-day trial, a federal jury deliberated for less than an hour before convicting Vasquez on August 25, 2023. U.S. District Judge Diana Saldana has now ordered Vasquez to serve 136 months in federal prison, immediately followed by five years of supervised release.

During the sentencing hearing, the court emphasized the significance of the case, highlighting the destructive impact of fentanyl on communities nationwide. U.S. Attorney Hamdani stated, “It takes only a tiny amount of fentanyl to kill a loved one. Vasquez brought in 4.6 kilos of that dangerous drug from Mexico–enough to kill approximately 2 million people.”

Hamdani further noted that Vasquez routinely traveled to Monterrey, Mexico, to pick up narcotics, prioritizing greed over community well-being. The sentencing ensures Vasquez will no longer profit from the destructive trade of fentanyl.

Special Agent in Charge Craig Larrabee of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Antonio emphasized the dangers of illicit fentanyl, stating, “Illicit fentanyl is one of the greatest dangers we’re facing as a country.” He highlighted the strength of law enforcement partnerships in combating the flow of illicit opioids into the United States.

Vasquez’s arrest occurred on March 10, 2023, when she attempted to enter the United States at the Juarez-Lincoln Port of Entry in Laredo. Authorities became suspicious due to her travel itinerary, leading to a secondary inspection. Anomalies in the car battery prompted law enforcement to discover four bundles of fentanyl hidden inside it.

The total weight of the seized fentanyl was 4.6 kilograms, with the potential to cause harm to more than two million people. Text messages from Vasquez’s phone revealed coordination with co-conspirators for trips to and from Monterrey, Mexico, since July 2022. The evidence indicated her involvement in a conspiracy to import and traffic narcotics.

Despite the defense’s claims that Vasquez was unaware of the drugs inside the car, the jury found her guilty of engaging in a conspiracy to import fentanyl. Vasquez will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility.

The investigation was conducted by HSI with assistance from Customs and Border Protection and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leslie Cortez and Brian Bajew prosecuted the case.