Border Patrol agents in the Tucson Sector teamed up with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) aircrews to apprehend two alleged drug smugglers and 12 illegal alien accomplices. The smugglers allegedly transported $600,000-worth of marijuana.
Agents assigned to the Nogales Station spotted a suspicious Ford van driving east along Highway 82. Before they could stop the van, the driver stopped at an intersection and he and his passenger fled on foot. Agents quickly apprehended the two suspects and determined them to be U.S. citizens, according to information provided to Breitbart Texas by CBP officials in Arizona.
A search of the van revealed “dozens of large marijuana bundles in the cargo area,” CBP spokesperson Vivien McLoughlin stated.
Two helicopters from CBP’s Air and Marine Operations (AMO) arrived on the scene and began searching for accomplices in the area. One of the helicopters carried two members of the Border Patrol’s elite Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC).
The aircrews spotted a group of 12 people walking through the desert brush. The group headed away from the area where the van stopped.
BORTAC agents “fast-roped” from the helicopter to engage the suspected illegal aliens, McLoughlin stated. The BORTAC agents pursued the group on foot as the AMO aircrews directed Border Patrol agents on ATVs to the area. The coordinated effort by the multi-agency team led to the 12 suspects being surrounded and detained.
Agents determined the suspects to be illegal aliens. Agents transported them to the station for processing where they learned that four of the suspects had previously been deported. Agents determined all 12 to be Mexican nationals. The four prior-deportees will face charges of illegal re-entry after removal, a felony that can carry up to a 20-year prison sentence. The other eight Mexican nationals face expedited removal proceedings, officials stated.
The two U.S. citizens now face charges connected to the smuggling operation. Officials said the more than half-ton of marijuana is valued at approximately $600,000.
Tucson AMO Air Branch Director Mitch Pribble said, “This is a good example of how the concept of integration serves Customs and Border Protection and, more importantly, the larger public as well. I am proud of the job our guys did,” in a written statement.
His Border Patrol counterpart, Patrol Agent in Charge of Special Operations Jiggs Rawls said, “Specialized operations units like BORTAC allow the Border Patrol to meet threats head on. Using dynamic deployment methods, like fast-roping, to surprise and overwhelm the criminal element gives our agents the upper hand. Coordination between all sister components ensures our success in keeping America safe.”