$9 million dollar pot bust on US 59 in Wharton County Texas – 3 Valley Residents busted

22,072 pounds, with a wholesale street value in Houston of $9,270,240

Texas Department of Public safety troopers took more than $9 million dollars in marijuana out of the pipeline last weekend with the busts of three individuals and the seizure of 22,072 pounds of bundled marijuana with a wholesale street value in Houston of $9,270,240.


Saturday morning, May 28, about 0300, Troopers noticed a semi being followed by a four wheeler on US 59 in Wharton County and pulled the over for a traffic violation. The truck, a propane tanker with the markings “Auto Tanques Nieto,” was stopped minutes later further up U.S. 59, near FM 1162 in El Campo.

Both vehicles were stopped for driving on an improved shoulder when prohibited.

Sgt. David Chauvin of the DPS Pierce station described to MTO how the busts went down.

9,500 pounds of ganja primo in smooth bore propane tanker
DPS Troopers discovered 9,500 pounds of ganja primo in the smooth bore propane tanker belonging to Autotanques Nieto. Photo KHOU.com

“When we pulled over the tanker, the driver appeared nervous and showed a lot of indicators of criminal activity. We got consent to search and our K-9 gave a positive alert. We took the rig to a secure location and my troopers opened up the rear hatch on the back of the tanker, and discovered bundles of marijuana inside, some 9,422 pounds total.”


Chauvin went on to explain that during the course of the investigation, it was learned that another tanker would be passing through the next day, and that information was passed on to troopers and members of the El Campo Interstate Drug Task Force. The truck was located and stopped near El Campo, Texas.

Again, K-9’s alerted troopers, the driver, Fernando Zavala, nervously gave troopers consent to search, the hatch was opened and 12,650 pounds of marijuana was discovered and seized.

Arrested were David Joe Corpus, driver of the first tanker; Luis Cavazos, driver of the vehicle escorting the first semi; and Fernando Zavala; driver of the second truck, all were taken into federal custody and charged with possession of marijuana. Chauvin said the men all reside in the Rio Grande Valley, and the trucks had both Texas and Mexican registration.

Upon further questioning by Federal and DPS officers, Zavala eventually told officers he had been paid $10,000 to drive the load of marijuana form the Rio Grande Valley in Texas to a truck stop in Houston.

All three have been charged with trafficking in marijuana. Under the Texas Hold Em’ Law, passed in 2008. and according state and federal law, people convicted of transporting illegal drugs face a lifetime disqualification of their commercial driver’s license privileges. This will apply to these three.


Auto Tanques Nieto
Autotanques Nieto Sa de CV

Now we all know the opposition to the proposed Cross Border Trucking program will jump all over this and have a hissy fit pointing out why this is another reason to prohibit Mexican trucks from US highways. It’s expected and as usual, they’ll be wrong.


AUTO TANQUES NIETO is a well regarded, well managed company transporting food grade and pressurized gases such as propane throughout Mexico and some parts of the US. None of their equipment is more than 4 years old and all equipped with satellite tracking which should make the DPS investigators jobs easier in discovering where the loads of marijuana originated from. They are an ISO 9000 company and registered under the C-TPAT (Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism) with the US government. There client list includes companies such as Coca Cola, CEMEX, Lala Dairies, Cargill and PEMEX.

The actions of their rogue drivers, US drivers, Mexican American drivers that were busted, have no reflection on the company, Auto Tanques Nieto, who is investigating fully with the DPS in this matter, our sources tell us.

We’ll keep an eye on this a follow the investigation.

Also a word of thanks to an ardent supporter and longtime reader of Mexico Trucker Online, Daniel “Kupkake” Kupke of Mercenary Transportation who alerted us to this story so we could investigate it further. And to our friend Sgt. David Chauvin of the Texas DPS Pierce Station in Wharton County Texas.