From The Trussville Tribune staff reports
TUSCALOOSA – A federal jury on Tuesday convicted a former Mexican federal police officer on drug possession charges for packages of cocaine and morphine found hidden in the exhaust manifold of a pickup truck he was traveling in through Alabama last year.
The announcement came from U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town and Drug Enforcement Administration Assistant Special Agent in Charge Bret Hamilton.
Following a two-day trial before U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler, the jury found Adrian Hernandez Portillo, 35, of Mexico, guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and morphine in north Alabama in January 2017. The jury also convicted Portillo on one count of possessing cocaine with intent to distribute, and one count of possessing morphine with intent to distribute.
An investigator with Alabama’s 17th Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force stopped a Toyota pickup truck traveling north on Interstate 20/59 in Greene County on Jan. 27, 2017. Hernandez was driving and Portillo was the only passenger, according to evidence at trial. After the two men gave inconsistent stories about the nature of their trip and the officer noticed the men had multiple cell phones, but little luggage, he requested and received consent to search the vehicle.
Officers found about 6.5 kilograms, or about 14 pounds, of cocaine and more than a pound of morphine wrapped in silver tape and hidden in a compartment built into the truck’s intake manifold, according to evidence.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection records showed that Portillo, who had served as a federal police officer in Mexico from 2007 to 2014, had driven the Toyota truck from Mexico to Texas the day before it was stopped on the interstate in Alabama, according to testimony.
Portillo’s co-defendant, Eduardo Mendez Hernandez, 23, of North Carolina, pleaded guilty in May to the conspiracy charge. Hernandez is scheduled for sentencing Oct. 30. Portillo is scheduled for sentencing Dec. 11.
“This case is a result of great police work on the part of one local police officer while patrolling his area of responsibility and then excellent cooperation among local and federal law enforcement agencies,” Hamilton said. “The agents and officers who worked this case more than likely saved lives and our communities are safer by sending these defendants to federal prison.”
“The vast majority of the dangerous illicit drugs being sold in the U.S. are imported from Central and South America by various drug-trafficking organizations,” Hamilton said. “Hopefully, this will serve as a warning to others who enter our country with the intent to sell poison to our residents – When we catch you, you WILL go to prison.”
The penalty for both the conspiracy charge and the possession with intent to distribute cocaine charge is 10 years to life in prison and a maximum $10 million fine. The maximum prison penalty for the possession with intent to distribute morphine charge is 20 years.
DEA and the 17th Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorneys Austin Shutt and Greg Dimler are prosecuting.