BROWNSVILLE, Texas (CN) - A man who had a Santeria priest bless a 1,000-pound brick of marijuana before he tried to ship it from South Texas to Houston was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.
Francisco Javier Maya, 35, of Mission, was convicted of conspiracy to possess and possession with intent to sell 1,000 lbs.
A federal jury convicted him in January.
U.S. District Judge Hilda Tagle sentenced him to 189 months in prison Tuesday.
Prosecutors submitted evidence during Maya's trial that he led a smuggling ring that transported several large loads of marijuana between the summer of 2012 and January 2013.
"Maya's role in the drug trafficking organization was to provide tractor trailer drivers to drive marijuana loads to locations including Houston and Taylor," the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
"Maya would share in the profits of each load, making between $4,000-$5,000 per load."
Maya is a follower of Santeria, a religion that African slaves brought to the Caribbean, which involves animal sacrifice and herbal healing.
"The jury saw photos of Maya's residence in Mission, which depicted numerous images of what was considered to be altars showing glasses of alcohol, knives, a machete, kettles, feathers and substances that appeared to be blood," the U.S. attorney said.
"Testimony also included descriptions of two rituals involving the sacrifice of animals. In December 2012, Maya had a Santeria priest, known as a 'Padrino,' performed rituals with the organization to 'bless' a 1,000 pound marijuana load that was destined for Houston."
The blessing apparently did not work, as the marijuana was stolen the next day, prosecutors said.
After the theft and a bomb explosion at a co-defendant's Brownsville home, federal agents linked the events to Maya's smuggling ring.
Fourteen of Maya's co-conspirators have pleaded guilty.
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