Man related to Mexican government official pleads guilty for smuggling more than $879K at border

Border officers found bundles of cash concealed in boxes


SAN ANTONIO – A 21-year-old man who is related to a Mexican government official pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in connection with an $879,000 smuggling scheme.

Federal court records showed that Rafael Gabriel Martinez Leal, who is the cousin of the Tamaulipas governor's wife, entered the guilty plea. He is charged with knowingly concealing more than $10,000 in currency.

The details of his plea deal were not immediately available Wednesday.

Martinez and Juan Pablo Hoyos Avila, 24, were preparing to fly to Mexico on a private aircraft in 2018 when they were stopped by Customs and Border Protection officers, who received an anonymous phone call warning them of the smuggling scheme.

Officers inspected the aircraft, and found bundles of cash totaling $879,099 hidden in a box for a fan.

Martinez told officers he had been smuggling money into Mexico for about nine months. He smuggled about $1 million a week for a 3.5% cut, according to federal court documents.

Hoyos, who went to school at the University of Incarnate Word, had also helped Martinez in the scheme, the documents showed. He is set to go trial next month, the records showed.

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