A 32-year-old Corona man was sentenced Monday to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to recruiting young women from Riverside to smuggle drugs into the U.S. from Mexico.
Jesus Manuel Rivera-Villareal, known as "Chuy," pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to smuggle heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine into the U.S.
At least five young women from Riverside were recruited to bring the drugs across the border, according to court documents. Rivera-Villareal had four recruiters looking for women willing to take the risk in order to make money.
Another member of Rivera-Villareal's drug-trafficking organization would go to Mexicali and hide the drugs in secret compartments inside vehicles and then have the women drive back to the U.S. The women would be paid when the drugs arrived in the U.S.
U.S. Atty. Laura Duffy said the criminal case shows the government's determination to "keep dangerous drugs off the streets of our community by aggressively prosecuting" drug smugglers.
The smugglers believed that border guards would be less likely to suspect a woman driver of smuggling drugs. But the Department of Homeland Security had been investigating the Rivera-Villareal organization since August 2011, prosecutors said.
The trafficking organization was a family-run business, prosecutors said. More criminal cases are pending.