EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A mother of three who told officers at a port of entry she didn’t know she was transporting 22 pounds of cocaine into the United States has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison.

Jessica Celeste Perez was detained at the Ysleta Port of Entry in El Paso last March after a U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspector noticed odd behavior. She was sent to a secondary inspection where a canine officer alerted her handler to the dashboard of the Nissan Sentra the woman was driving. CBP officers found nine bundles containing 10 kilograms (22.25 pounds) of cocaine in the stereo area of the vehicle.

Perez allegedly told Homeland Security Investigations agents she had agreed to transport illegal or counterfeit currency from Mexico to El Paso in exchange for $1,300 because she hadn’t worked since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that she didn’t know it was drugs, according to the federal complaint. The woman later allegedly told investigators she suspected her new employer “could be using her to smuggle drugs.”

Perez was charged with four federal drug counts, and she pleaded guilty to one in November. This month, U.S. District Judge David C. Guaderrama sentenced her to 34 months in prison for knowingly and intentionally importing 5 kilograms or more of cocaine. The El Paso resident was also assessed a $100 special penalty and three years of supervised release at the end of her incarceration.

Federal officials in the United States and Mexico have repeatedly warned border residents about not agreeing to carry envelopes, bags or bundles of currency on behalf of unknown third parties in Mexico because it could be something else.

In Laredo, Texas, CBP officials a few years ago also reported a trend of U.S. residents being stopped with drugs they claimed didn’t know were hidden in their vehicles after coming back from mechanical shops across the border.