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Texas man gets nearly 17 years after kilogram of meth found on bus passenger’s thighs

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A 43-year-old former resident of San Antonio has been ordered to federal prison following his conviction for conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute meth, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.

U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos convicted Lawrence James Espree Oct. 11, 2019, following a one-day trial.   

Today, Judge Ramos ordered Espree to serve a total of 200 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by five years of supervised release.

During the trial, the judge heard Espree had hired a drug courier to transport drugs from the Rio Grande Valley to San Antonio. On Feb. 21, 2017, that courier was a passenger on a commercial bus as it approached the Border Patrol checkpoint near Falfurrias. There, authorities found approximately a kilogram of meth strapped to his thighs.

After the courier was arrested, Espree fled the area and evaded arrest until 2019.

During trial, he identified Espree as the person who recruited him to transport the narcotics.

Evidence also established that Espree purchased the courier’s bus ticket using his girlfriend’s email account and his mother’s credit card.

Judge Ramos also heard Espree was leading a narcotics trafficking operation in which he directed another courier. In that incident, authorities also seized an additional kilogram of narcotics from the bus passenger at the Falfurrias checkpoint in January 2017.  

Evidence presented during trial also demonstrated that Espree used numerous firearms and body armor to facilitate his narcotics trafficking.

The defense attempted to convince the court he was not involved. Judge Ramos did not believe those claims and convicted him as charged.

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

Both bus passengers previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the offenses.

The Drug Enforcement Administration conducted the investigation with the assistance of Border Patrol and U.S. Marshals Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert D. Thorpe Jr. and Jeremy Carl Fugate prosecuted the case.

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