Fentanyl arrest in Texas: Woman accused of using children as ‘mules’

Magdalena Silva Banuelos, 46, has been charged with distributing a controlled substance that resulted in death.

TEXAS, U.S. — An Albuquerque mother who allegedly stashed a lethal dose of fentanyl in her children’s luggage en route to Texas has been convicted of a federal drug felony, according to U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Chad E. Meacham charged.

Magdalena Silva Banuelos, 46, has been charged with distributing a controlled substance that resulted in death. According to court documents, Banuelos allegedly gave her boyfriend the fentanyl that killed him.

At a Nov. 17 detention hearing in New Mexico, prosecutors revealed that Banuelos and her boyfriend, who was also the father of her sons, were in an on-going relationship.

On May 31, she allegedly put the boys, ages 8 and 10, on a flight from Albuquerque to Texas to visit their father.

Surveillance video shows the father collected the boys from the gate, ransacked their luggage and then entered the airport restroom at around 10:26 p.m., prosecutors said.

A few minutes later he overdosed and died in a toilet stall near his sons.

From the stable, investigators recovered a Clinique-brand makeup container that contained more than a gram of fentanyl.

Investigators also recovered text messages between the victim and the Banuelos that suggested she knew he planned to take the fentanyl and was aware of the risk involved, prosecutors said.

“Hey, you gotta be careful,” she wrote hours before his death, the lyrics said.

“Yes ma’am. Very slow and easy,” he replied.

“Just one and then wait, you’ll see,” she reportedly said. “Only one.”

“OK cool. Thanks. Got it,” he said.

“No fainting on the kitchen floor,” she reportedly replied. “Seriously, you could or. No dying on the kitchen floor… It’s going to piss you off!!!

At the hearing, the prosecutor argued that the defendant allegedly “used her underage children to smuggle drugs.” Banuelos was ordered to be remanded in custody.

“I feel for these children. Losing a parent because of the other’s actions is a misfortune for a child,” Meacham said. “This defendant allegedly stashed fentanyl — a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin — in the luggage of her own underage sons. This drug has stolen too many futures and ruined too many lives. The Justice Department remains committed to holding accountable those who spread it.”

“This arrest and detention is another example of the devastation that fentanyl continues to wreak on families across the country. Ms. Banuelos’ actions risked the lives of her minor children by hiding a highly potent drug in her luggage during a flight from Albuquerque to Dallas,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge W. Guy Baker of the DEA’s Dallas Field Division Page work with our state and local partners to investigate drug-related poisoning and overdose deaths to hold those accountable for their actions.”

An indictment is merely an allegation of criminal conduct, not evidence. The accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court.

If convicted, Banuelos faces a mandatory minimum of 20 years and up to life in federal prison.

The Dallas Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Dallas Police Department conducted the investigation. Assistant US Attorney Courtney Coker is prosecuting the case with assistance from the US Attorney for the District of New Mexico.