Belleville man sentenced for smuggling enough fentanyl to kill 'up to 5.8 million people'

A Belleville man was sentenced Friday to 14 years in prison for smuggling heroin, cocaine and nearly 12 kilograms of fentanyl across the Mexico/U.S. border.

Jeffrey Layne Parker 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.

His first case was dismissed when he said he was in the hospital dying of congestive heart failure — however, that case was brought back to court with additional charges when authorities say they caught him smuggling drugs again just a few months later.

Parker pleaded guilty in August 2017 to one of the four charges: conspiring to possess and then distribute more than 1 kilogram of heroin and fentanyl.

"The fentanyl found in Parker's car could have caused the deaths of up to 5.8 million people — more than the populations of Dallas, San Antonio and Houston combined," wrote James R. Reed, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Laredo, Texas, District Office, in a press release. "In handing down the sentence, Judge Moore denied Parker's requests for leniency, noting the quantities of narcotics found in Parker's possession, his extensive criminal record and the fact that Parker had transported narcotics loads at least four times."

Photo of the fentanyl authorities say they found Jeffrey Layne Parker smuggling across the U.S./Mexico border last year. Provided

Parker was first charged when agents stopped him at a border patrol checkpoint around noon on March 7 about 29 miles north of Laredo. Agents reported finding 16 bundles of drugs wrapped in foil and cellophane in the trunk and passenger area of a rented Chevrolet Impala.

Reed said those bundles contained 11.77 kilograms of fentanyl, 1.85 kilograms of heroin, 76 grams of cocaine and 1.41 kilograms of marijuana.

Parker 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 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

The Belleville man has been in custody, without bond, since his arrest in June, according to Reed. Authorities will soon determine where Parker will be transferred to serve his sentence.

He will serve five years of supervised release following his 14-year prison sentence.

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Dana Rieck: 618-239-2642, @ByDanaRieck