Drug smugglers using kids to deflect suspicion



Posted on November 6, 2011 at 11:29 PM

Updated today at 11:36 PM

TOMBSTONE, Arizona — Smugglers are using children as part of a ploy to sneak drugs past Border Patrol checkpoints.

Agents are finding more kids in vehicles loaded with drugs, and the drivers are usually the children's own mothers.

U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints are set up on highways that serve as drug trafficking routes. The goal for smugglers: To slip past agents by blending in with normal travelers.

One checkpoint near the town of Tombstone is about an hour from the Arizona border.

"We had an incident at this very checkpoint where we had a woman bringing her eight-year-old child with her in the vehicle," said Border Patrol spokeswoman Colleen Agle. "We discovered that she was carrying 104 pounds of marijuana in the trunk of her car."

In recent weeks, agents at checkpoints near the Arizona border have discovered at least half a dozen children in vehicles loaded with drugs.

Just a few days ago, agents seized nearly 50 pounds of marijuana hidden in a spare tire. The driver had her eight-year-old daughter in the car.

Cartels exploit the fact that agents at checkpoints often have only seconds to decide whether to search a vehicle... to decide whether the person behind the wheel is a smuggler.

The children serve as decoys to throw agents off a smuggler's trail. It happens on patrol as well.

"The mother was driving around this park during broad daylight and loaded several illegal aliens in her car," Agle said. "She had her children with her."

Back at the checkpoint, we asked parents about the trend. Lydia Salenyadia said she was disturbed to hear some women were risking their own children.

But it's just the latest technique used by smugglers trying to get their contraband past border patrol checkpoints.