Final man sent to prison in cocaine car battery conspiracy

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A 31-year-old Mexican national has been sentenced for conspiring to traffic cocaine across the border, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Juan Andres Rodriguez-Murillo pleaded guilty Nov. 1, 2023, to conspiring with others to smuggle narcotics into the United States by concealing the drugs inside car batteries.

U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos has now ordered Rodriguez-Murillo to serve 60 months in federal prison. Not a U.S. citizen, he is expected to face removal proceedings following his imprisonment. In handing down the sentence, the court noted the consequences for individuals who choose to get involved in drug smuggling.

Mikeal Jovany Phillips, 36, Huffman, and Christopher Sheffield, 39, Crosby, were previously sentenced to 40 and 48 months in federal prison, respectively, both to be immediately followed by four years of supervised release.

On Jan. 6, 2023, Sheffield drove a gold SUV to the Border Patrol (BP) checkpoint near Sarita. Upon inspection, authorities discovered approximately 2.8 kilograms of cocaine hidden inside the battery compartment. The battery shell contained a smaller battery to power the vehicle and three bundles of cocaine.

The investigation revealed numerous text and Facebook messages between Sheffield and Phillips discussing the trip.

Subsequently, authorities learned Phillips had coordinated the trip and arranged for Sheffield to travel from the Houston area to Brownsville to retrieve the cocaine. While in Brownsville, Sheffield met Rodriguez-Murillo who then provided the cocaine-filled car battery and installed it in the vehicle.

Rodriguez-Murillo has been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

The Drug Enforcement Administration and BP conducted the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ashley Martin prosecuted the case.

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