2 Cameron County women arrested on cocaine smuggling charges in separate incidents

Jan. 24—Two Cameron County women remain in federal custody following their arrests on cocaine smuggling charges in two separate incidents.

The women are accused of trying to smuggle a total of 120.14 pounds of narcotics from Mexico into the United States, federal criminal complaints states.

Flor Mariel Soto, of Brownsville, born in 2001, and Zanet Padron, of Harlingen, born in 2000, were arrested the same day and each face one count of knowingly possessing with intent to distribute cocaine, federal court documents reflect.

According to the federal criminal complaints, Soto tried to cross 16.02 kilograms or 35.31 pounds of cocaine at Veterans International Bridge in Brownsville Monday, while Padron tried to cross 38.48 kilograms or 84.83 pounds of cocaine at the Gateway International Bridge in Brownsville, also on Monday.

Soto was driving a 2014 Ford Escape across Veterans bridge when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers noticed paper napkins and "blue-colored plastic inside the passenger's side rear door," the federal criminal complaint read.

Soto's Ford Escape was referred to a secondary inspection area, where a non-intrusive inspection device revealed anomalies in the passenger's side door.

The federal criminal complaint also states a canine alerted to drugs in the vehicle and during an inspection by CBP officers, they found 15 individually wrapped bundles that contained a white substance that testified positive for cocaine.

Not too far from Veterans bridge, Padron attempted to cross Gateway bridge, and while being questioned by CBP officers, they noticed "inconsistencies" in her statements. Her vehicle was sent to a secondary inspection area, a federal criminal complaint read.

In the secondary inspection area, CBP officers found 35 bundles hidden inside multiple areas of the vehicle, according to the federal criminal complaint. The bundles tested positive for cocaine.

During her interview with CBP officers, Padron "claimed sole and complete control of the vehicle, and that it hadn't left her possession," the federal criminal stated, adding that she invoked her right to speak to an attorney.

Both women appeared Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald G. Morgan, who ordered they be held without bond. Their next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 27.