Mexican authorities seize $2.5 million in cash coming through San Ysidro border

[Mexican border agents seized these packages of cash amounting to approximately $2.5 million on June 27 at the El Chaparral Port of Entry, south of San Ysidro.
(Agencia Fronteriza de Noticias)

Federal authorities from Mexico’s organized crime bureau are investigating

JUNE 30, 2020 1:27 PM

TIJUANA —Two California women are being investigated for alleged ties to organized crime after being arrested Saturday traveling southbound into Tijuana from San Ysidro with approximately $2.5 million in cash, Mexican federal authorities said Monday.

The women tried to smuggle the cash through the border in a 2019 white Cherokee SUV with a California license plate at about 10 p.m. Saturday night, authorities said. Officials have not yet released their identities.

Mexican border agents sent the pair to a secondary inspection after they went through the “nothing to declare” lane. The cash was discovered during a search of the vehicle, according to Isaías Bertín Sandoval, Baja California’s secretary of federal public safety.

By Mexican law, if a person is bringing more than $10,000 in cash into Mexico, they are required to first stop at the border to declare the amount with customs.

Federal authorities said it was a “historic cash seizure” carried out by the Tax Administration System (SAT), the National Guard and the Mexican Army. On Monday, federal agents with the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime Investigation (SEIDO) arrived in Tijuana to continue investigating the case.

The news organization Agencia Fronteriza de Noticias first reported the seizure, saying 13 packages of cash were initially discovered in the women’s suitcases. Then a search of the vehicle revealed 87 more money packages concealed throughout the SUV — all in U.S. currency.

Cecilia Farfán-Méndez, the head of security research programs at the Center for U.S.-Mexican studies at UC San Diego, said the timing of the seizure is interesting because it indicates the drug-trafficking organization involved isn’t suffering financially through the coronavirus pandemic.

“Of all these organizations, some are in better places than others to manage crisis during a global pandemic. Clearly, that route doesn’t have liquidity issues,” she said.

She also said it wouldn’t be surprising if there was also some cooperation from U.S. law enforcement in the seizure.

“Either you have the worst possible luck in the world or there was some info coming from the U.S. that ‘hey, this car may have bulk cash in it,’” said Farfán-Méndez.

In January, Mexican authorities seized half a million dollars in U.S. cash from a woman, also driving a Cherokee SUV, who was allegedly trying to smuggle the money into Tijuana through the Otay Port of Entry.

In the Mexican justice system, authorities do not release the full names of suspects or defendants in criminal trials. Their last name is only disclosed if they are convicted of a crime.