Rio Grande City man will forgo a jury trial after he pleaded guilty last week to trying to smuggle more than 550 pounds of marijuana, records show.

Jesus Carlos Villarreal Jr. pleaded true to drug smuggling charges Wednesday related to his arrest last year in Starr County after agents found him with bundles of marijuana.

Villarreal was arrested in December after he told U.S. Border Patrol agents he agreed to smuggle several kilos of marijuana for an unknown cash payment because he desperately needed money for Christmas.

Villarreal’s trial in connection with that smuggling attempt was set to begin Thursday before Villarreal pleaded guilty to the charge.

The 20-year-old man was arrested Dec. 20, 2019, after agents watched him leave an area known for drug smuggling.

“… At about 2 p.m., Border Patrol agents were patrolling the area of (La Rosita, Texas) when they were notified by the Rio Grande City Tactical Operations Center of a white Ford sport utility vehicle loading up narcotics in an area known by (agents) as the ‘Tractor Landing,’” the complaint against Villarreal stated.

Agents subsequently observed as the vehicle began traveling at a high rate of speed and turned on a residential street and parked.

“The driver, later identified as (Villarreal), parked the vehicle and absconded onto (sic) an apartment complex property,” the document stated. “Upon approaching the vehicle, (agents) observed bundles of suspected narcotics inside the vehicle.”

A short while later, agents located Villarreal fewer than 50 yards from the vehicle’s location.

Agents subsequently seized the contents in Villarreal’s vehicle; 45 tightly wrapped bundles that weighed approximately 250 kilograms, or a little more than 550 pounds of marijuana, the document stated.

Later that day, Villarreal spoke with agents and admitted his role in the smuggling attempt.

“Villarreal advised that he met with two co-conspirators who asked if he wanted to work. Villarreal stated he was advised to pick up a vehicle at a barbershop named “Fades” in Rio Grande City, Texas, and then to drive towards the Rio Grande (River),” the complaint stated.

The Rio Grande City native stated he then watched as an unidentified man approached him.

The man took the SUV and drove it closer to the river while Villarreal waited.

The unidentified man then returned with the SUV, and Villarreal got back into the vehicle.

“Villarreal then got inside the vehicle and observed the bundles of marijuana as they were in plain view,” the document stated. “While driving, Villarreal stated he observed (Border Patrol agents) behind him and pulled into a neighborhood. Villarreal stated he then exited the vehicle and began running because he knew there were drugs in the vehicle and (agents) in the area.”

He told authorities he didn’t know how much he was going to be paid and took the job because he needed money for Christmas, the document stated.

Villarreal is now set for sentencing June 25, records show.


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