Federal authorities say they are noticing a new trend in drug smuggling: unsuspecting U.S. residents taking their cars for minor repairs to Mexico and coming back with drugs stashed in hidden compartments.
“A lot of times the ‘mule’ doesn’t even know what he or she is bringing. And a lot of times the stories seem to be legit: the vehicle had a GPS tracker and the other guys were pretty much seeing where the vehicle was parked and waiting to remove the narcotic,” said a CBP official in Laredo, Texas, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified.
Taking vehicles across the border for repairs after an accident is a common practice among long-time border residents stuck with high insurance deductibles or not wanting to report a claim to avoid steep hikes in their premium. Repairing a damaged door and fender can cost less than $500, border residents say.
The CBP official said sending drugs through a person who doesn’t know he or she is a courier minimizes the cartels’ collateral damage. Their operatives aren’t caught and the unsuspecting courier can’t provide much information about the sender.
“They also don’t get nervous during inspections because they don’t know what they’re carrying,” he said.
The official recommends that anybody crossing the border be open and cooperative with the CBP officers conducting inspections at ports of entry at all times.
In the 2018 fiscal year, the Laredo field office of CBP confiscated nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in drugs at eight ports of entry from Brownsville to Del Rio, Texas. Although marijuana led all seizures in tonnage, both methamphetamine and heroin are on the rise — 28% and 20%, respectively — over the previous fiscal year. This has to do with the Mexican drug cartels’ profit margins, the CBP source said.
“In this region, meth is big. We tend to see that more often than other kinds of drugs. It has great demand. It’s cheap to produce and it can be diluted at times. It’s a lucrative product in a smaller amount, whereas marijuana is not,” he said.
The official added marijuana has lost its “kick” as a commodity among the drug cartels because they need to bring over large amounts to make a profit. Also, several states including California have legalized the sale of marijuana, which has reduced the demand for the illegal Mexican variety, the source said. Laredo CBP officials have stopped shipments of up to 60 pounds of methamphetamine at the ports of entry. Sometimes, the drug was liquefied and poured inside bottles, cans and other containers.
“We see that a lot in canned vegetables, canned fruit and beer bottles. They’ll just remove the tops, pour it in and replace the tops. We still see it a lot in the gas tank, still. And we have seen crystal meth passed off as Mexican spicy candy; it’s made to look as if the package was still factory-sealed,” the CBP official said.
Read the original at KTLA 5.
Photo: Border Report/Julian Resendiz
Read related: How Much 'Stuff' Can You Bring Duty-Free to Mexico
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