Interstate traveler convicted of heroin possession

Published 4:21 pm Wednesday, March 22, 2023

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A Montgomery jury handed down a verdict Monday, finding a Texas woman guilty of possessing heroin with intent to distribute.

Attorney Sandra J. Stewart announced the decision after the jury’s decision Tuesday finding Melissa Vasquez-Guardad, 25, from Houston guilty on charges presented in 2021.

In a press release, U.S. Attorney’s Office Law Enforcement Coordinator and Public Information Officer Doug Howard said court records and evidence presented at trial, on July 27, 2021, revealed law enforcement in Butler County, Alabama, stopped a vehicle on Interstate 65. 

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“The vehicle had three occupants,” Howard said. “The driver had difficulty providing identification and stated she did not have a driver’s license.”

Officers eventually identified the driver as Fidelia Barrera-Villanueva, 39, also from Houston, Howard explained. Vasquez-Guardado was a passenger in the vehicle, along with Barrera-Villanueva’s 15-year-old daughter. 

“When speaking with officers, Vasquez-Guardado and Barrera-Villanueva indicated that they were on their way to Atlanta, Georgia,” Howard said. “Barrera-Villanueva gave officers permission to search the vehicle. During the search, officers saw a pillowcase underneath a box on the floorboard behind the front passenger seat. Inside the pillowcase were six cylindrical objects wrapped in black tape containing what turned out to be a total of 5.9 kilograms of heroin.”

Vasquez-Guardado faces a sentence of 10 years to life in federal prison following the conviction. Barrera-Villanueva, who previously pleaded guilty to possession of heroin with intent to distribute, could receive a maximum sentence of life in prison, Howard said. 

A sentencing hearing for both Vasquez-Guardado and Barrera-Villanueva is scheduled for July 6, 2023.

Various agencies cooperated in the investigation, including the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Agency, the Butler County Sheriff’s Office, the Covington County Sheriff’s Office, and the Greenville Police Department. 

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kevin P. Davidson, Justin L. Jones, and Mark E. Andreu are prosecuting the case, Howard said.