Prosecutors dismissed a Belleville man’s federal drug-smuggling case earlier this year while he was in the hospital dying of congestive heart failure — but soon after, he made a surprising recovery and federal agents say they caught him trying to smuggle drugs, again.
Jeffrey Layne Parker, 56, faced four charges in his most recent federal case in connection with the two alleged drug-smuggling attempts — one on March 7 and the other on June 7, according to Southern District of Texas Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Eaton.
“He did it a second time, but he wasn’t going to walk away the first time, either,” Eaton said. “We dropped (the first case) at the time because there was a speedy-trial issue, the clock was running while he was in the hospital. At one point, I was told he was dying.”
Then, Eaton said, the man “miraculously” recovered and was again found with drugs near the border.
Parker pleaded guilty in August to one of his four charges: conspiring to possess and then distribute more than one kilogram of heroin and fentanyl.
“That’s not all he’s held accountable for. When he pleads guilty, a presentence investigation is prepared that details all of the offenses’ conduct — including the stuff in the other charges,” Eaton said.
Eaton said that as part of the plea, the judge is required to sentence him to at least 10 years in prison. Parker could, however, be sentenced to life in prison.
Eaton said defendants often enter plea deals in hope that that their cooperation will lessen their sentence.
“Unfortunately for him, I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Eaton said. “This particular judge is not all that tolerant of these offenses. I mean — they do their job and factor in all the requirements — but he did this twice.”
Parker was first charged when agents stopped him at a border patrol checkpoint around noon on March 7 about 29 miles north of Laredo, Texas. Agents reported finding 16 bundles of cocaine and marijuana wrapped in foil and cellophane in the trunk and passenger area of a rented Chevrolet Impala.
He eventually admitted to agents he knew the drugs were in the car, a police report stated.
Then, he was stopped at the same checkpoint in the early-morning hours of June 7, this time driving a 2010 Ford F-150 pickup truck. During the vehicle inspection, an agent wrote in a criminal complaint, a police dog named Basto sniffed out 11.15 kilograms of cocaine taped up into nine bundles behind one of the truck’s radio speakers.
Parker told the agents in June that he knew he was transporting the drugs and was doing so in order to pay off a debt he owed someone, a police report said.
As of Thursday, Parker was in federal custody in Texas. Eaton said Parker has been denied bail by a judge.
The prosecutor added that Parker’s sentencing was not yet scheduled, but that it most likely take place in the first few months of 2018.