- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) - A man identified by authorities as a cartel courier has been has been sentenced to 13 months in prison.

Federal task-force agents identified Luis Miguel Aguilar Gutierrez as a courier for a Mexican drug cartel after his arrest following a traffic stop Sept. 3, 2014, on Interstate 10 near Moss Point.

The Sun Herald reports (https://bit.ly/1feeM27) Gutierrez pleaded guilty Monday in federal court in Gulfport to misprision of felony. The charge means knowing a crime was committed but not reporting it.

Federal task-force agents had identified Gutierrez, as a courier for a Mexican drug cartel after his arrest following a traffic stop Sept. 3 on Interstate 10 near Moss Point.

Prosecutors said officers found more than $1 million in cash hidden in the oil pan and engine compartment of a vehicle Gutierrez was towing when he was stopped.

Gutierrez knew he was carrying drug money, but didn’t know how much, he said in a letter filed in court records Monday.

“I should have asked for help from the authorities but was afraid to do so due to threats to my family,” his letter said.

Court papers show Gutierrez, from Mexico, was living in Brownsville, Texas, and has worked in the U.S. on a visa since 2008.

He was westbound in a 2003 Dodge Ram and pulling a 2001 Ford Expedition when he was pulled over on a careless driving violation.

Gutierrez later told agents a Mexican drug cartel had contacted his family and insisted he make deliveries, according to previous court testimony. Gutierrez said he had been paid $1,000 for one trip to deliver a vehicle to Texas, and said the latest trip was his second.

A federal grand jury indicted Gutierrez on two counts of interstate travel in aid of drug racketeering enterprises and one count of bulk cash smuggling.

The indictment will be dismissed as part of his plea to a lesser charge.

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Information from: The Sun Herald, https://www.sunherald.com

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