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Four people arrested in connection with a $35 million methamphetamine seizure have been charged in federal court in Laredo, court documents show.

On May 18, a grand jury indicted Zuriel Cordero Ferrer, Ivan Nunez Penaloza, Henry Mendez Niz, and Jose del Angel Ontiveros with conspiracy to import methamphetamine and import methamphetamine. If convicted, each defendant could face 10 years to life in prison. Their arraignment is scheduled for May 26.

The case dates back to April 12, when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers turned a commercial shipment of 16 pallets containing 800 five-gallon buckets of frozen strawberry puree for secondary inspection.


X-ray analysis revealed abnormalities in several of the pallets, authorities said. CBP officers said they discovered 158 packages containing 1,761 pounds of methamphetamine. The contraband had an estimated street value of over $35.2 million.

Homeland Security Investigations Special Agents made a controlled delivery of the frozen mash with continuous monitoring of the shipment. On April 18, the cargo was delivered to a storage unit in Chamblee, Georgia. Cordero Ferrer and Mendez Niz unloaded the cargo. Cordero then left the scene.

NunezPenaloza, del Angel Ontiveros and MendezNiz drove to the storage unit and loaded some of the cargo into a U-Haul truck rented by NunezPenaloza, according to court documents. Authorities observed the trio drive to a waste management facility, where they attempted to dump the part of the cargo they had loaded.

Nunez Penaloza was then dropped off at a gas station. Meanwhile, special agents monitoring CorderoFerrer observed him and another man renting a Penske truck. CorderoFerrer and the man then went to the storage unit to load the remaining buckets. Georgia State Troopers arrested them as they left the storage facility.

The soldiers then discovered the frozen strawberry puree mixed with methamphetamine. Soldiers also detain del Angel Ontiveros and Mendez Niz after a vehicle stop. Nunez Penaloza was detained at the gas station.

In interviews after the arrest, Cordero Ferrer said he knew the shipment contained methamphetamine. He said he set up Cordero Vegetable Distributors under the direction of an individual in Mexico for the purpose of importing methamphetamine, the arrest affidavit states.

Cordero Ferrer said that on April 20, the driver called him to say a shipment would be delivered. Cordero Ferrer said Nunez Penaloza gave him $5,000 to pay the driver to transport the cargo from Laredo. Mendez Niz was sent to help unload the cargo.

“Cordero (Ferrer) admitted to receiving two prior shipments of methamphetamines concealed in commercial imports of charcoal. Cordero (Ferrer) said he expected to be paid $45,000 to receive this shipment,” the affidavit states.

In an interview after the arrest, Nunez Penaloza said he received $15,000 from a woman on April 20 to give to Cordero Ferrer. Nunez Penaloza said $5,000 was for transportation services, $1,000 for Mendez Niz to help with unloading, and the rest for Cordero Ferrer.

Nunez Penaloza and del Angel Ontiveros knew the shipment contained drugs. Del Angel Ontiveros and Mendez Niz denied knowledge of the drug. Mendez Niz added that he was “just helping,” according to court documents.

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