ST. CHARLES (CBS) -- A Texas woman who pleaded guilty to trafficking a large amount of heroin for a Mexican cartel was sentenced to 20 years in prison Wednesday.
Claudia A. Chagoya, 42, of El Paso agreed with Kane County prosecutors to the sentence in exchange for a guilty plea to one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, a release from the state's attorney's office said.
About 9:45 a.m. on April 25, a Kane County Sheriff's deputy was patrolling the eastbound lanes of I-90 near the Elgin Toll Plaza when he saw a blue Dodge Dakota pickup with Texas registration plates that twice failed to signal as it exited I-90 at Route 25, the release said.
He stopped the vehicle and began to speak to Chagoya, the driver and only occupant. Chagoya did not have a valid driver's license, and Texas authorities said the vehicle had crossed the border into Mexico at El Paso on April 18 and returned to the United States at the same crossing on April 21.
During a search of the vehicle's undercarriage, the deputy saw clumps of mud on bolts that hold the drive shaft to the rear axle but no mud elsewhere. He then determined the drive shaft, which should be hollow, apparently was filled with a substance.
The vehicle was towed and a search revealed that the drive shaft contained more than seven kilograms of heroin, with an estimated street value of more than $2.1 million, the release said.
After her arrest, Chagoya told authorities she was working with a Mexican drug cartel to transport heroin from Mexico, through El Paso, to the Chicago area.
She said she was to drop off the vehicle at a hotel, that the truck would be taken to another location, the heroin removed and then the truck would be returned to the hotel.
She said she was paid $1,000 up front and was to be paid additionally once she got back to Texas.
The seven kilos represent the largest seizure of heroin in Kane County in recent memory, the release said.
According to Illinois law, Chagoya must serve at least 75 percent of the sentence. She was given credit for at least 234 days served in the Kane County jail, where she had been held since her arrest on $25 million bond, the release said.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2011. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
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