Discovery of $150,000 and shoes concealed in compartment during Mississippi traffic stop leads to Texas man’s conviction

Published 12:02 pm Monday, January 15, 2024

A Texas man was convicted on drug charges in connection with a Mississippi traffic stop where nearly $150,000 and a pair of shoes was found in a concealed compartment in a car he was driving.

Jose Humberto Gandara, 52, of Edinburg, Texas, was convicted by a federal grand jury in Gulfport for conspiring to possess with intent to distribute a substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine.

The conviction was announced on Jan. 11 by U.S. Attorney Todd W. Gee and Acting Special Agent in Charge Steve Hofer of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

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According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, in 2016, Gandara was stopped in Gulfport, while driving a 2012 Volkswagen Jetta.  The Jetta contained almost $150,000 hidden in a concealed compartment located under the center console.

Gandara initially denied any knowledge of the money.

Officers then showed Gandara a pair of shoes, which they located in the hidden compartment.  The officers previously cut the shoes to see if they contained a tracker.  Gandara asked the officers why they cut his shoes, and when they confronted him with the fact that the shoes came from the hidden compartment, Gandara admitted to moving the money for a percentage.

Gandara denied being involved with narcotics, but photographs from his phone appeared to depict bricks of cocaine.

In January of 2015, Gandara bought a different 2012 Volkswagen Jetta that was subsequently stopped at the border of Mexico/Texas.  While Gandara was not driving that Jetta, the driver was an individual that Gandara had previously identified as his employee.  Border Patrol agents found approximately 12 kilograms of cocaine in a hidden compartment, which matched the hidden compartment in the vehicle Gandara was driving in Gulfport.

Officers were also able to determine that in September of 2015, Gandara was stopped in Alabama with nearly $360,000.  The money was divided into multiple bundles, each of which were wrapped in green plastic wrap and stuffed inside the front seats of the car Gandara was driving.  Gandara again denied knowledge of the money, but the money found in the seats matched a bundle of money Gandara claimed from his duffle bag.

Subsequent investigation revealed that the $150,000 seized from Gandara in Gulfport was payment for cocaine that was interdicted in Louisiana, while bound for Moss Point, Mississippi.  The evidence and testimony at trial showed that Gandara was acting on behalf of a source of supply, located in Texas, who was importing cocaine directly from Mexico and sending it on to Moss Point, Mississippi.

Gandara is scheduled to be sentenced on April 17, 2024.  He faces a maximum potential sentence of twenty years in prison.

The DEA, United States Border Patrol, Gulfport Police Department, Louisiana State Police, and Alabama’s 17th Judicial Task Force Team investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jonathan Buckner and Hunter McCreight prosecuted the case with support from Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gaines Cleveland and Lee Smith.