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Texas man goes to jail after $150,000 and shoes found in hidden compartment on MS Coast

A Texas man will spend 20 years in prison after police found thousands of dollars in a secret compartment of his car and determined it was a payment linked to a drug network operating between Mexico, Texas and Moss Point.

A federal judge sentenced 52-year-old Jose Humberto Gandara in U.S. District Court in Gulfport, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi.

A jury convicted him in January of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.

Trial testimony revealed that Gandara, who is from Edinburg, Texas, was stopped several times by authorities in several states.

Police stopped him in 2016 while driving a Volkswagen Jetta in Gulfport, the release said. They found nearly $150,000 hidden in a compartment under the center console. He denied knowledge of that money, authorities said.

But officers also found a pair of shoes in that compartment. They cut into it to see if they were holding a tracker, the release said. Gandara asked why. And when police told him they discovered the shoes in the compartment, he admitted to moving the money for a percentage, the release said.

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It’s unclear why the shoes prompted Gandara to move money.

He also denied knowledge of drugs, but police said photos on his cell phone showed pieces of cocaine.

In January 2015, authorities stopped Gandara and a man he identified as his employee at the U.S.-Mexico border in another Volkswagen Jetta. Border Patrol agents found 12 kilos of cocaine in the same style as hidden compartment officers discovered in the Jetta in Gulfport, the release said.

And eight months later, authorities stopped Gandara again – this time in Alabama.

They found nearly $360,000 divided into bundles wrapped in green plastic and stuffed into the front seats of the car he was driving, the release said.

Gandara denied knowledge of the money, but it matched another bundle found in a duffel bag that Gandara claimed was his, the release said.

Test evidence showed that Gandara worked for a drug supplier in Texas who imported cocaine from Mexico.

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Investigators later determined that the $150,000 seized in Gulfport was payment for cocaine going to Moss Point.

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