La GRANGE, Texas – A Texas sheriff’s drug interdiction team is making a major impact on the flow of drugs that have been missed by border checkpoints. The team has also become accomplished at interdicting large amounts of cash headed towards the Mexican border.
Fayette County Sheriff Keith Korenek made drug enforcement a major priority for his department when he was first elected in 2004. As he approaches the end of his third term as sheriff, his department is seeing the goals become reality as the record of his department’s success in drug interdiction grows.
Sergeant Randy Thumann and his K-9 partner Lobos have seen success in busting drug smugglers, human traffickers and those headed back to the border with the cash profits of their criminal enterprises. Most recently, Thumann and Lobos discovered sixteen kilograms of methamphetamine hidden in secret compartments in a Ford F-250 headed eastbound on I-10 near Flatonia, Texas, Lt. David Beyer told Breitbart Texas in an interview.
Beyer said Thumann and Lobos have just gotten very good at what they do. “So much so,” Beyer said, “that some traffickers try to find ways around the county to avoid their watchful eye.”
Breitbart Texas spoke with Thumann about the bust.
“It was a regular traffic stop,” the sheriff sergeant said. “I noticed he was nervous and it didn’t take long for his story to not add up.” Thumann said the man said he was travelling to Atlanta to visit a family member. He had left from El Paso. The sergeant noticed the suspect had no luggage to correspond with the length of the trip. “He also didn’t know the address of the person he was traveling to meet,” he explained, “despite his saying he had been there before.”
Thumann said he got the driver’s permission to search the vehicle and Lobos jumped into action. “Lobos alerted to the front panel of the truck,” he said while showing Breitbart Texas where he found the first part of the drugs. “A more invasive search revealed two hidden compartments where the drugs were stashed,” he said.
Thumann found part of the drugs in a secret panel located behind the front right fender of the truck.
“When I found the drugs, I knew there wasn’t enough there for this kind of drug run,” he explained. He said he continued searching and found a lead-lined compartment under the windshield wipers. Thumann pointed to where the extra compartment was hidden.
This bust alone was estimated to be worth about $1.6 million on the street. He said the man picked up the load in Juarez, Mexico and had passed through the border screening and the inland border patrol checkpoint. He said the vehicle was not selected for secondary inspection at either location, according to Customs and Border Protection records. He did not admit to being associated with a cartel, but drug smuggling in that area is controlled by the Sinaloa drug cartel.
Before Thumann arrived at the sheriff’s office to meet with Breitbart Texas, Lt. Beyer showed off the wall of photos chronicling the success Thumann has achieved over his 12-year career. Some of the busts were made with his partner Lobos, while earlier busts were accomplished with the help of his previous K-9 “Knight.” Knight passed away from heat exhaustion in August 2011 after chasing a fleeing suspect in Bastrop County. Beyer told Breitbart Texas the community showed its love and support of the police dog that died in the line of duty. He is laid to rest in a place of honor in front of the department’s headquarters with a headstone donated by the local funeral home.
The “wall of honor” depicts the successful seizure of dozens of loads of drugs and large quantities of cash being smuggled to Mexico. Earlier this year, The Thumann/Lobos team landed $428,000 in cash that was headed to Mexico. “Once again, conflicting stories led to suspicion,” Thumann said. After getting consent to search the Honda Odyssey, Lobos alerted to a scent under the seats. An inspection revealed 39 bundles of cash hidden in custom compartments inside the seats of the vehicle. The two Mexican nationals were taken to jail.
Other deputies in the department are also searching for drugs as part of their work. “Our deputies love what they do and are always eager to get out on patrol,” Beyer explained. On July 18, Beyer reported three additional drug busts his deputies made the previous weekend. On Sunday evening, Deputy Michael Otten stopped a vehicle on State Highway 71 near West Point. The driver became very nervous but gave the deputy consent to search the vehicle. Crystal meth was found inside the vehicle. An additional package of meth was found on the driver’s person while he was being placed under arrest.
Later that evening, Deputy Terry Guentert came upon an illegally parked 18-wheeler. The truck was parked near an RV park on Highway 77 near Schulenburg. As the driver became very nervous, a Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper and a Schulenburg police officer arrived to back him up. After getting consent to search the vehicle, the deputy found three packets of crystal meth.
Early that Monday morning, Deputy Darrell Maze stopped a vehicle on State Highway 71 headed towards La Grange. During search of the vehicle, the deputy found a handgun. The handgun, in and of itself, is perfectly legal in Texas. However, the crystal meth the deputy discovered is not and the handgun then became unlawful. The suspect was charged with both drug and weapons charges.
The soft-spoken Sheriff Korenek told Breitbart Texas he is very proud of the work his deputies perform for their 28,000 deputies. “We cover over 900 square miles with 25 sworn officers and a total of 50 employees,” the sheriff said.
Lt. Beyer also spoke the issue of human smuggling in Fayette County. “We see a lot of it up here in our county,” he said. Fayette county is located between Houston and San Antonio and is hundreds of miles from the border with Mexico.
“The discovery of these smugglers almost always leads to high-speed chases,” Beyer said. “They are extremely reckless and are almost always in stolen cars. They will crash through farmers’ fences and have no regard for the safety of anyone on the road, or their human cargo.” He said they will find them in trucks with the interior seats removed and people packed in like boxes of cargo inside the cab and bed of the trucks.
Breitbart Texas has witnessed these types of vehicle configurations in human smuggling operations in Brooks County during ride along visits in South Texas.
Beyer said it is almost impossible to get immigration officials to pick up the illegal aliens when they find them being smuggled. “We put the drivers in jail when we catch them, but the illegal aliens have to be released,” he said.
The lieutenant said his deputies just love what they do. He recalled a story of Thurmann speaking to an elementary school class about his dream of becoming a cop when he was growing up. “Now I get to do this every day,” Thumann told the students.
Beyer also spoke about the support his department has received, particularly in the wake of the shootings of police officers in Dallas, Texas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. As Breitbart Texas entered the sheriff’s office in La Grange, Beyer was being photographed with a group of county residents who came by to drop off keychains that said, “Thank you. The public supports you and prays for you.”
He said they have seen an outpouring of community support with people bringing both food and flowers by the office to express their appreciation.