Bond denied in Gulfport for suspected Mexican drug cartel courier found with $1.07 million

BY ROBIN FITZGERALD Twitter: robincrimenews
September 9, 2014 Updated 1 hour ago

Luis Miguela Aguilar Gutierrez

GULFPORT -- A Texas man found in South Mississippi with more than $1.07 million hidden in a vehicle he was towing is a suspected courier for a Mexican drug cartel.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert H. Walker denied bond for Luis Miguel Aguilar Gutierrez, 28, of Brownsville on Tuesday after hearing testimony in U.S. District Court.

Walker also ordered a grand jury review.

A criminal complaint alleges Gutierrez tried to smuggle money out of the United States to evade currency reporting requirements. The complaint also accuses him of interstate travel in aid of racketeering enterprises and conducting an unlicensed money transmitting business in support of unlawful activity.

Brownsville is just across the Mexican border.

Jackson County Detective Sgt. Richard Palmer testified Gutierrez was westbound on Interstate 10 in a 2003 Dodge Ram and towing a 2001 Ford Expedition when he pulled him over about 10:19 p.m. on Sept. 3. Gutierrez was on a bridge crossing the Escatawpa River near Moss Point and the sport utility vehicle was crossing into a different lane, Palmer said.

Gutierrez claimed he had been in Montgomery three or four days and had bought the SUV for $2,500, but receipts in bags of purchases showed he had bought the items Aug. 27 and 28 in Decatur, Ga., and a title showed the SUV had been purchased July 13, Palmer said.

Palmer was writing Gutierrez a courtesy citation for careless driving when further examination of the SUV by other officers raised suspicions, FBI Safe Streets Task Force Officer Nick Kovacevich said.

An officer saw tool marks under the SUV. There was no oil in its oil pan but something appeared to be stuck in the oil pan, he said.

Officers took the SUV to the Gautier city barn and found 188 plastic-wrapped bundles in the oil pan and engine compartment. The amount totalled $1,072,500.

Gutierrez changed his story when federal agents interviewed him early Sept. 4, Kovacevich said.

Gutierrez claimed a Mexican drug cartel had contacted his family because they learned Gutierrez lives and works in the United States. His mother and siblings live in Mexico.

"He said his family was threatened by the cartel," Kovacevich said.

Gutierrez also has a wife and several children who live in Texas.
Gutierrez allegedly admitted the trip to Montgomery was his second job for the cartel, and said he was paid $1,000 to $1,500, but said his original destination was Atlanta.

He claimed he had made a trip to Atlanta three weeks earlier and was to return to Atlanta this time but was diverted to Montgomery, Kovacevich said.

Gutierrez reportedly claimed he was contacted by cell phone from numbers he did not know and was instructed to pick up a vehicle that would have the key inside, and tow it to a designated location in Texas.

Kovacevich said I-10 is a significant corridor for trafficking, and noted illegal drugs typically are found in traffic stops as couriers head east and money is found as they return west.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stan Harris told the judge Gutierrez is "a serious risk of flight."

Assistant Federal Public Defender John Weber disagreed and gave the judge copies of U.S. birth certificates for Gutierrez' wife and children.

"He was forced and his family was threatened," Weber said, and asked Palmer if he believed that is true.

"It's very possible," Palmer said.

If Gutierrez had been concerned about his family, "he could have contacted law enforcement," Harris said. "It was a job for which the defendant was being paid."

Read more here: