A driver who tried to go through the Pine Valley checkpoint with 21 packages of fentanyl has been sentenced to 37 months in federal prison.
The U.S. Bureau of Prisons website says Jose Armando Hernandez Velasquez, 24, will be released on May 13, 2021.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Colin McDonald urged U.S. District Court Judge Janis Sammartino to impose a 51-month term while defense attorney Thomas Sims asked for a 21-month term.
Hernandez is confined at the Victorville federal prison which was recommended by the judge to accommodate family visits. He was given credit for approximately six months in jail since his arrest.
Fentanyl is a dangerous synthetic opioid that is deadly even in small amounts. Velasquez pleaded guilty to possession of fentanyl with intent to distribute.
The incident occurred on Sept. 5, 2018, when Hernandez was driving a silver Mini Cooper at 1:53 p.m. as he approached the Interstate 8 checkpoint. Hernandez told a Border Patrol agent he was on his way to the Viejas Casino in Alpine.
An agent’s dog alerted him to the vehicle’s floorboard, and the Mini Cooper was sent to a secondary inspection.
The vehicle was transported to the hydraulic lift for further inspection. An agent used a fiber optic scope within an opening and saw sealed bundles on a false bottom compartment.
Agents removed 21 vacuum sealed packages that weighed 55 pounds. The packages contained a mixture of the deadly fentanyl drug with piperidinyl.
Hernandez is a Mexican citizen with a permanent resident card. His girlfriend, Sandra Cristina Osuna Nunez, was initially charged with him, and she told agents she was unaware of any drugs in the vehicle.
A prosecutor asked the judge to dismiss the case against Osuna, and she was released from jail on Oct. 4 without any charges.
During a later interview, Hernandez told agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration that he was aware he was transporting illegal merchandise for a fee of $2,500.
Hernandez said he had transported illegal substances before, approximately six to seven times.