Imposter vehicle loaded with marijuana stopped in El Centro

Fri, 2012-01-27 11:09 AM

By: Mark Rockwell

Border Patrol agents from the El Centro Sector broke up a drug smuggling operation in California on Jan. 25 that used a truck disguised as a utility company vehicle to carry the cargo.

In the early morning hours of Jan. 25, Border Patrol agents monitoring remote video surveillance systems near Calexico saw two people launch a raft with several bundles of suspected narcotics into the All American Canal. A Ford F-150 pick-up truck disguised as an Imperial Irrigation District vehicle pick-up truck approached the area. The suspects loaded the bundles into the bed of the truck. Once loaded, the truck drove away from the area and the two subjects returned to Mexico.

A subsequent vehicle stop on the pick-up truck yielded 15 bundles of what was later identified as marijuana, totaling 128 pounds with an estimated value of $102,936.00, said the agency.

The driver, a 20-year old male Mexican citizen with a B1/B2 visa border crossing card was taken into Border Patrol custody. The driver, pick-up truck, and marijuana were turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration, it said.

The day before in El Paso, TX, in an unrelated incident, CBP officers discovered over five pounds of heroin in the transmission of a Ford F-250 pick-up truck from Mexico at the Paso del Norte border crossing.

The packages of heroin were hidden inside the truck’s transmission transfer case, said CBP. “This is a huge seizure,” said Hector Mancha, U.S. Customs and Border Protection El Paso port director. “During the last fiscal year area CBP seized seven pounds of heroin so stopping more than five pounds in a single bust is significant.”

The seizure was made after the 1993 Ford F-250 pickup truck arrived at the crossing shortly before noon on Jan. 24. A CBP officer at the primary inspection booth initiated an inspection and questioned two female occupants of the truck, said the agency. The CBP officer noticed that both females, a mother and daughter, were nervous during the inspection.

The officer selected the vehicle for a secondary exam. During the secondary inspection a CBP drug detection dog alerted to the truck’s undercarriage and further examination located two heroin-filled bundles, weighing a total of 5.3 pounds, in the transmission case.

CBP said the smugglers custom-shaped the two packages of heroin to fit exactly inside the transfer case. “Smugglers went to great lengths to conceal this contraband to avoid detection,” said Mancha. “CBP officers worked long and hard to identify and locate the hidden compartment within the transmission transfer case of this vehicle. Smugglers work hard to hide their drugs but CBP officers work harder to find them.”

CBP officers arrested one of the occupants, 36-year-old Candida Carolina Ortiz of Hemet, CA. She was turned over to ICE/HSI special agents to face federal charges to include possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance and importation of a controlled substance. Her 20-year-old daughter was interviewed and released, said the agency.

“CBP officers will encounter any and all types of people attempting to smuggle drugs,” said Mancha. “We have seen teens, senior citizens, and multi-generational family units all involved in drug smuggling.”

Imposter vehicle loaded with marijuana stopped in El Centro | Government Security News