81-year-old arrested for attempting to smuggle thousands of illegal cigarettes into Mexico

By: Valerie Gonzalez

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MCALLEN – A smuggling of a different kind landed an elderly man in jail. He’s now facing federal charges for selling thousands of illegal cigarettes.

Special agents with Homeland Security Investigations caught the man at a warehouse Wednesday. He had about 400,000 cigarettes ready to ship to Mexico.

According to court records, special agents saw several vans at the site labelled with “Victor Guerra Duty Free”. One of those vehicles drove out and then sped up to lose agents.

When it returned to the warehouse later, agents approached the driver, 81-year-old Jose Francisco Guerra, a U.S. citizen. They found 40 cases of unstamped cigarettes on the property.

Upon inspection by U.S. and Mexican authorities, it was determined the cigarettes were foreign-produced considered adulterated and misbranded. The product was intended for export to Mexico.

When he was caught, Guerra said he had been smuggling cigarettes on a regular basis. Each time taking more than 400,000 cigarettes. He estimated to have 800,000 pounds of cigarettes in his warehouse he was planning on smuggling.

These specific products are banned in Mexico for health reasons, but it was also in violation of the country’s tax law.

Guerra went before a federal judge on Friday for his initial appearance.


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