In his previous job as a municipal judge in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, Eduardo Francisco Sais Peinado oversaw cases involving violations of city law.
But according to a criminal complaint filed against the former judge in a California court, Peinado was pushing federal weight when he tried to enter the U.S. on Feb. 10.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Peinado was fired from his job on the bench over a work-related matter the same day.
According to the criminal complaint, Peinado, 43, tried to cross into the U.S. at the San Ysidro Port of Entry just before 6:30 p.m. in a 2007 Jeep Liberty he told customs officials only he and his girlfriend regularly used.
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Customs and Border Protections officers found a little more than 17.5 kilos of cocaine lining the passenger side doors of the Jeep, the equivalent of about 38.75 pounds. According to Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence platform, that amount of cocaine could have fetched around $450,000 once it hit the U.S. market.
Peinado has pleaded not guilty, and he waived the right to bail, according to other court documents.
He twice told officers during their inspection that he had nothing to declare in the vehicle and that he was headed to Chula Vista.
The complaint states border patrol officials used a device that measures the density of certain parts of vehicles more likely than others to be used for stashing illegal items, and his passenger door and rear passenger doors read higher than normal.
They also X-rayed the doors after a drug dog alerted when passing by the passenger side of the car. The white powdery substance inside the 11 packages officers found inside the doors tested positive for cocaine, according to the complaint.
According to jail records, Peinado remained in custody Saturday at San Diego’s Metropolitan Correctional Center.