A 31-year-old woman accused of hauling more than 40 pounds of methamphetamine in her SUV — with her two young children riding with her — was charged Tuesday with transportation of drugs for sale and other offenses.
Ledi Vanessa Murillo was arrested Friday by U.S. Border Patrol agents in Murrieta.
Along with the drug sales count, Murillo was charged with being in possession of controlled substances and a sentence-enhancing allegation of carrying more than 25 pounds of illegal drugs.
She pleaded not guilty during an arraignment before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Stephen Gallon, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for Dec. 24 at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta.
The defendant is being held in lieu of $500,000 bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.
According to Border Patrol Agent Theron Francisco, shortly before 3 a.m. Friday, agents stopped Murillo as she was driving northbound on Interstate 15, entering Riverside County, in her 2005 Mitsubishi Endeavor.
Francisco did not say what drew the federal officers’ attention to the vehicle.
A K-9 narcotics detection dog was deployed to search the SUV, and the canine quickly alerted to the presence of drugs, Francisco alleged.
“Agents conducted a further search of the vehicle and found 17 cellophane wrapped packages concealed under the passenger seat,” he said. “The 17 packages of meth weighed 43.21 pounds … (and) had a street value of $82,000.”
Murillo’s two children were taken to the Border Patrol station, where they were released to the custody of their father, according to Francisco.
San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Doug Harrison said Friday that it’s not uncommon for “drug smugglers to use children as a diversion.”
Harrison said the Border Patrol endeavors to “diligently safeguard children from being used as decoys to benefit transnational criminal organizations.”
The defendant’s vehicle was impounded.
Francisco confirmed Murillo is a U.S. citizen, but her city of residence was not disclosed.
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