The Architect and the Opera Singer: A Tale of Two Drug Mules
The morning of March 4, 2012 was an unusually warm day in Southern California. Eugenio Velázquez, 50, a dual citizen of the United States and Mexico. That sunny morning, he tried to cross the border from Tijuana into San Diego. It was 9 a.m.
Velázquez, a renowned architect responsible for various buildings in Tijuana, was a trusted traveler enrolled in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s SENTRI program. He’d passed the requisite background check and personal interview needed for SENTRI pass holders.
But that morning, a drug sniffing dog caught scent of narcotics under the hood of the architect’s Nissan minivan.
Maximino Melchor, a rising opera star from Tijuana, is involved in a similar case. It unfolded on Sept. 19, 2012, when Melchor, 23, was pulled over on Interstate 5 in north San Diego County, near Camp Pendleton. Law enforcement officers discovered 44 pounds of methamphetamine in the vehicle he was driving. He, too, was arrested.
Both men pled guilty to smuggling drugs. Their respective defense attorneys said both were forced into trafficking — that they operated under duress.
The young singer was sentenced to nine years in jail, while the architect got just six months. He was able to produce witnesses who testified that he’d been threatened.
Not all drug smugglers are vicious cartel thugs. The war on drugs has a large and varied cast of characters, not always simple to categorize as either perpetrators or victims.
There are audio of this story and video of the opera star at the link.