By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
An Arizona man and Mexican man who is undocumented were convicted and sentenced to prison in U.S. District Court this week after they were caught last summer trafficking drugs through Sweetwater County.
Jose Luis Urrea, 35 of Tucson, and Mario Vera-Sandoval, 51 of Mexico, were each sentenced for their involvement in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Urrea received more than five years in prison, while Vera-Sandoval was sentenced to three years in prison, followed by five years of supervision.
“We know the interstate system is widely used by traffickers,” said Criminal Chief Nicole Romine. “That is why state agencies and local law enforcement in communities along the interstates, along with federal partners, work collectively to pursue and prosecute this type of criminal conduct. Simply put, we will not tolerate the use of our interstate system to transport drugs to or through the State of Wyoming.”
Vera-Sandolval was also convicted of illegally entering the United States, for which he received a sentence of time served.
On Aug. 14, 2020, the men were stopped by a Wyoming Highway Patrol officer in Sweetwater County for a routine traffic stop. After they pulled over, the men quickly exited the vehicle and began “aggressively” checking the tires and couldn’t give a definitive answer as to their travel plans.
During questioning, Urrea admitted he thought there was something illegal in a backpack the trooper saw in the car.
The trooper searched the vehicle, finding five pounds of methamphetamine. Urrea said he was paid $3,000 to deliver the backpack to unknown persons in another state.
Vera-Sandoval was aware that the reason for the trip was to transport methamphetamine and law enforcement discovered he was in the United States illegally. Both men were taken into custody.
Special agents with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigations and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration further questioned the men and gathered enough evidence through their phones, dash cam footage and their own admissions to charge them with possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
“On behalf of the DEA I’d like to commend the sharp eye of the Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers who made this significant seizure,” said Deanne Reuter, Special Agent in Charge, DEA Denver Field Division. “Officers like these are the real force multiplier when combating the trafficking of these dangerous drugs.”