Alleged Smugglers Use Children to Distract from Meth Smuggling

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents and K-9 security dogs keep watch at a checkpoint station, Friday, Feb. 22, 2013, in Falfurrias, Texas. Government agencies vary widely in how they are dealing with $85 billion in across-the-board budget cuts that went into effect last week. Federal workers could face seven …
AP File Photo: Eric Gay

United States Border Patrol agents carried out two separate arrests this week involving drug smugglers transporting large quantities of methamphetamine while utilizing children as a diversionary tactic. The two busts resulted in a total seizure of 225 pounds of methamphetamine valued at approximately $541,694.

The first incident occurred on Tuesday at approximately 9 p.m. when U.S. Border Patrol agents working the I-8 checkpoint in Pine Valley, California, contacted the driver of a 1999 Ford Expedition. The female driver was accompanied by her 6-year-old son. Agents referred the woman to the secondary inspection area for further examination of her vehicle. Agents deployed a drug detection K-9 that alerted to the rear door.

The agents searched the vehicle and found 65 concealed bundles. The bundles contained methamphetamine weighing approximately 67.68 pounds with an estimated street value of $179,352. The agents found the methamphetamine inside the spare tire.

The driver, later identified as a 25-year-old Mexican national, was arrested and the 6-year-old child placed into the custody of Child Protective Services. Officials turned the methamphetamine over to investigative personnel of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. U.S. Border Patrol seized the vehicle.

The second incident occurred on Wednesday at approximately 6:30 p.m. when U.S. Border Patrol agents working the I-8 checkpoint in Pine Valley, California, contacted the occupant of Nissan Murano driven by a female. Two minor children accompanied the driver, according to information provided by San Diego Sector Border Patrol officials. A U.S. border patrol K-9 team approached the vehicle and the K-9 alerted to an odor it is trained to detect. This resulted in a referral for a secondary inspection of the driver and vehicle. During the secondary inspection, the K-9 led agents to the driver’s door and passenger-side rear cargo area where they discovered concealed plastic bundles containing methamphetamine. Agents also found hidden packages throughout the vehicle to include all four doors and the rear bumper. Agents also located additional packages of methamphetamine inside the vehicle’s spare time. The total number of bundles discovered was 160, with a total weight of 157.54 pounds with an estimated street value of $362,342.

Agents arrested the driver who they identified as a 32-year-old U.S. citizen. Officials turned the suspect over to the Drug Enforcement Administration. The Border Patrol seized the vehicle and turned the two children — ages, 12 and 13 — over to family members.

Drug smuggling organizations commonly use various techniques to avoid secondary inspections and police personnel working highway interdiction operations. These techniques include the use of children or senior citizens who are used as props.

Robert Arce is a retired Phoenix Police detective with extensive experience working Mexican organized crime and street gangs. Arce completed work assignments in the Balkans, Iraq, Haiti, and recently completed a three-year tour in Monterrey, Mexico, for the U.S. Department of State, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Program. As the Regional Program Manager for Northeast Mexico in charge of the Mexican states of, Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Durango, San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas) You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at robertrarce@gmail.com.

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