A South Texas man has been sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison for leading a ring that smuggled marijuana to Houston in a load of charcoal.
A federal judge in McAllen on Tuesday sentenced 59-year-old Eduardo Ramirez of Rio Grande City. A jury convicted Ramirez of conspiracy to possess and possession with the intent to distribute marijuana.
Investigators say a compartment built into a truck trailer hid nearly 3,500 pounds of marijuana during a 2011 drug run to Houston. Prosecutors say Mexican charcoal in the main part of the trailer helped mask the drug's odor.
Authorities say Ramirez was unaware that the rig's driver was an undercover officer. Part of the drug load was transferred to a van that was later stopped by Houston police for a traffic violation.