EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — An El Paso man allegedly smuggled a shipment of narcotics to St. Louis, where he was arrested during a traffic stop earlier this month.
According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri, investigators identified 41-year-old Francisco Manuel Mata-Martinez, of El Paso, Texas, as a possible “courier of narcotics.”
Mata-Martinez was pulled over on Feb. 6 on Interstate 44 in St. Louis County before a drug-sniffing dog alerted officers to a duffel bag allegedly filled with 8.5 kilograms of fentanyl, 25.7 kilograms of methamphetamine and 1.2 kilos of the club drug ketamine.
Investigators say that at the same time, DEA agents and police watched as 38-year-old Maricela Vazquez-Vargas, of St. Louis, arrived at the 4200 block of Delor Street for the drug delivery.
Vazquez-Vargas allegedly had a kilogram of cocaine at her home. A federal grand jury indicted her on charges of conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute cocaine.
Mata-Martinez was indicted in U.S. District Court in St. Louis on one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and fentanyl, one count of possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.
Both are scheduled to be in court on Feb. 23. The conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute fentanyl charges carry a penalty of 10 years to life in prison, a $10 million fine, or both. The others are punishable by five to 40 years in prison, a $5 million fine, or both.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, the St. Louis County Police Department, and the Phelps County Sheriff’s Department investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Dane Rennier is prosecuting the case.