Federal officials arrested Richelle Elexsis Pallanes and Hector Machuca in El Mirage for their alleged role in smuggling nearly 26 kilos of cocaine from Mexico into the Valley, according to a criminal complaint filed in Arizona's federal district court.
On July 2, federal agents served a search warrant at 12903 West Voltaire Avenue and discovered a box in the garage with 22 individually wrapped packages -- weighing 25.85 kilos -- of a "white powdery substance" that tested positive for cocaine.
They also found Pallanes hiding in the garage behind her car, a Nissan Cube. Machuca was inside the home, along with his brother, wife, and two small children.
The investigation, which included agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, was sparked by "research" agents conducted of border crossings.
Pallanes raised flags with what agents described as "suspicious border crossing activity" -- nine trips to Mexico between March 26 and June 9, and staying for more than three hours during eight of them.
That, and her "associations with convicted and suspected narcotics smugglers," led agents to believe she, too, was smuggling drugs across the border.
So, feds started following her.
Their surveillance of her on three different days in June revealed that she went to Mexico, stayed for a few hours, then drove to Tucson, where she picked up passengers and dropped them off at a Walmart in El Mirage.
She left them there for a "short time" and then came back and picked them up.
On two of those days, feds report that after dropping off her passengers at Walmart, she drove to Machuca's place in El Mirage, pulled into his garage and hung out for 30 to 90 minutes before retrieving the shoppers.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
Machuca, who was busted in 1998 in Chicago for possession of 170 kilos of coke, would move his cars out of the garage to let Pallanes park inside.
A little shady? Agents thought so, too.
That's when they served the warrant, found coke bundles in the garage, and arrested the pair.
They also found a smuggling compartment behind the muffler of the 2009 Nissan Cube, which they believe she used to smuggle the cocaine during her frequent trips to and from Mexico.