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Driver accused of smuggling attempt reindicted
A truck driver accused of trying to smuggle nearly 950 pounds of marijuana hidden in a load of ceramic tile through the U.S. Port of Entry at San Luis, Ariz., late last year has been indicted for a second time.
According to Yuma County Superior Court records, defense attorney Candy Camarena filed a motion to have the case remanded back to the grand jury in November 2012. In that motion he argued that the original indictment returned against his client was obtained in violation of his client's right for due process because the grand jury was not given a full and impartial presentation of the evidence.
Camarena wrote that the prosecution presented inaccurate testimony to the grand jury that his client admitted to knowing about the marijuana, and that the prosecution failed to present the correct version of the facts.
In that motion, Camarena argued that the customs agent who interviewed Ramirez-Aguirre the day he was arrested incorrectly used the word “product” in describing his client's description of the tile.
His client, Ramiro Ramirez-Aguirre, was arrested Oct. 19, 2012, after customs officers x-rayed the load of tile Ramirez-Aguirre was carrying and found 80 bricks of marijuana hidden within a hollowed out portion of the tiles, which had been stacked on pallets.
Ramirez-Aguirre has been charged with transportation of marijuana for sale, possession of marijuana for sale and importation of marijuana.
By stipulation with the prosecution, the case was remanded back to the grand jury in early February 2013. The grand jury, however, returned an indictment charging Camarena's client with the same three charges.
It is not known whether Camarena will file another motion, which could remand the case back to the grand jury for a third time.
According to court records, on Oct. 19, 2012, Ramirez-Aguirre drove a 1996 Kenworth T600 semi truck, pulling a flatbed trailer loaded with tile, into the port of entry at San Luis and presented his cargo of tile for inspection. At that time Ramirez-Aguirre also presented customs officers with the cargo manifest that indicated the tiles were to be delivered to Calexico, Calif.
Since this was the first time that merchandise from the company that hired Ramirez-Aguirre had been brought into the United States, the truck was sent for a secondary inspection.
During that inspection, the truck and trailer, which had 12 boxes of ceramic tile, were x-rayed and it appeared there was something hidden inside the stacks of tile. At that point one of the pallets was removed from the trailer and examined.
When customs officers opened that box of ceramic tile they discovered it had been hollowed out and a substance that had field tested positive for marijuana was found wrapped in plastic and hidden inside.
The rest of the boxes of tile were then removed from the trailer and searched and a total of 80 packages were found hidden inside the boxes, weighing a total of 947 pounds.
Court records also indicated that while the truck was being inspected, Ramirez-Aguirre told customs officers he was actually taking the load of tile to Glendale, Calif. However, he later gave them a hand written note that instructed him to instead take it to Commerce, Calif.
Under questioning Ramirez-Aguirre said this was the first time he had ever worked for the company that hired him and that he didn't know that marijuana had been hidden in the load of tiles.
Camarena argues in court documents that his client could not have known about the marijuana because he did not load the boxes of ceramic tile onto the truck, nor did he have any reason to believe it was anything other than the load of tiles he had been hired to deliver.
James Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.