Texas - An 80-year-old Mission man has entered a guilty plea for
attempting to export contraband cigarettes, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan
Jose Francisco Guerra owned and operated Victor M. Guerra Inc., a
customs brokering company in Hidalgo. On Jan. 15, law enforcement
stopped a tractor-trailer which later revealed approximately 17 million
cigarettes headed for Mexico. The shipping manifest had been falsified
as to the vehicle’s contents, and the cigarettes lacked the applicable
tax stamp as Texas law requires.
The investigation revealed the cigarettes originated in a warehouse
located at 2900 North Depot Road in Hidalgo. Guerra controlled and
operated that warehouse and facilitated the storage and sale of the
cigarettes. Guerra was also found to be in control of another warehouse
in McAllen. Both warehouses contained a combined total of 422,917,800
contraband cigarettes destined to be exported to Mexico.
Guerra admitted to his role in the attempted smuggling event, adding
that he knew exporting contraband cigarettes into Mexico was illegal and
intended to export additional cigarettes. At his plea today, Guerra
also agreed to forfeit his customs broker license, pay a fine and
forfeit his interest in the cigarettes and items seized from his
The total value of the cigarettes and equipment authorities seized is estimated at approximately $88 million.
In addition to accepting Guerra’s guilty plea, U.S. District Judge
Micaela Alvarez entered an order of forfeiture against equipment and
cigarettes seized from the truck and Guerra’s warehouses. She will set
sentencing at a later date. At that time, Guerra faces up to 10 years in
federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine.
He was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security
Investigations conducted the investigation with the assistance of Texas
Department of Public Safety. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Mitchell is
prosecuting the case.