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A federal judge in Tucson sentenced a Mexican citizen to 10 years in prison on Dec. 11 for transporting more than 13,000 pounds of marijuana into the United States.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized 604 of bundles of marijuana from Enrique Valencia-Lopez, 47, at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales, Arizona, in May 2017.

Valencia-Lopez drove a commercial tractor-trailer carrying bell peppers through the port of entry, according to the federal criminal complaint. During secondary inspection, a canine alerted Customs and Border Protection officers.

After law enforcement discovered the bundles, Valencia-Lopez said he had recently been held up by armed gunman who took his trailer while others held him captive, according to the complaint. He said they released him and told him to drive into the U.S. as if nothing had happened.

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Valencia-Lopez told CBP officers he thought the gunmen had put drugs in his trailer. Officers asked him how the gunmen intended to communicate with him, and he said he didn't know.

A jury found Valencia-Lopez guilty of possession, importation and intent to distribute the marijuana.

Contact reporter Danyelle Khmara at dkhmara@tucson.com or 573-4223. On Twitter: @DanyelleKhmara

Reporter

Danyelle joined the Star in 2018 and covers K-12 education. Previously, Danyelle wrote for the Tucson Weekly where she won several statewide awards including story of the year and first place investigative reporting.