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A federal grand jury handed up drug distribution charges against a St. John the Baptist Parish firefighter who was arrested while allegedly trying to sneak 130 lbs. of marijuana past a checkpoint at the Texas-Mexico border.

Michael Moscona faces a count of possession with intent to distribute 59 kilograms of marijuana in an indictment returned by a grand jury in Corpus Christi, Texas, on July 14.

Moscona’s attorney, Alejandro Guerra, said Tuesday that Moscona intends to plead not guilty to the case at a hearing tentatively set for Wednesday. Guerra declined further comment.

A St. John the Baptist Parish firefighter tried to sneak more than 150 pounds of marijuana past a checkpoint at Texas’ border with Mexico but …

Moscona, who is out of jail on an unsecured bond of $75,000, could receive a maximum of 20 years if convicted as charged.

According to a criminal complaint last month, Moscona was driving near an immigration checkpoint north of McAllen, Texas, on the morning of June 17 when Border Patrol agents stopped him. Moscona allegedly claimed he was vacationing with relatives in South Padre Island but was returning to St. John alone in a rental truck because the firefighting crew to which he belonged was short-staffed.

Agents said Moscona became visibly nervous when questioned about a new toolbox in the bed of the truck. The agents forced the box open after a drug-sniffing dog showed an interest in it.

Inside the box were several bundles of marijuana — worth more than $100,000 — wrapped in black plastic, the complaint said. Agents arrested Moscona and seized a pistol in the front seat.

The complaint alleged that Moscona confessed that he was delivering marijuana from Texas’ Rio Grande Valley to Ponchatoula in Tangipahoa Parish. Moscona allegedly said he had made several such deliveries in previous months.

The complaint accused Moscona of having more than 70 kilograms of marijuana. The indictment, without elaborating, dropped the amount by some 11 kilos.

A St. John Parish government spokeswoman said Moscona was on paid leave pending an internal disciplinary investigation. The status of that investigation was not clear Tuesday.

Moscona had been a St. John firefighter for 15 years when he was arrested and had formed part of a team which won a state firefighting drills competition multiple times.

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