A Texas man caught in 2014 with possessing nearly 16 pounds of heroin hidden in two fire extinguishers on a commercial bus passing through Baton Rouge was sentenced to four years in federal prison.
Juan Jesus Vasquez, 27, of McAllen, Texas, pleaded guilty last year to possession with intent to distribute heroin and was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Judge John deGravelles.
East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputies pulled the Tornado passenger bus over for a traffic violation on Interstate 12 on Nov. 18, 2014, and searched the luggage compartment for drugs with a police dog named Jumma.
After Jumma alerted the deputies to a narcotic odor, they found two large fire extinguishers that held 7.2 kilograms — 15.8 pounds — of heroin in plastic bags.
The extinguishers were in a blue suitcase belonging to Vasquez, who gave deputies permission to search it.
Vasquez told authorities that two days earlier, he had met a man in Mexico who asked him to transport the extinguishers from Texas to someone at a bus station in Atlanta, according to a factual basis included in his plea agreement.
The man offered to pay Vasquez $100, and he agreed.
“(Vasquez) admitted to law enforcement that he knew something wasn’t right, that the man’s request was ‘fishy,’ and that he suspected that the fire extinguishers contained illegal drugs,” the factual basis notes.
Vasquez picked up the extinguishers from someone at a truck stop in Pharr, Texas, and put them in his luggage before boarding the bus, the documents state.
The plea agreement says Vasquez “knew or was deliberately ignorant of the fact that the two fire extinguishers in his custody and control contained illegal drugs.”
The brown substance was field-tested and confirmed to be heroin.
Ian Hipwell, one of Vasquez’s attorneys, said Tuesday that Vasquez is a U.S. citizen with no other criminal history.
Vasquez will be on supervised release for three years following his exit from prison.