Thursday, December 18, 2014



Note: For those who might think the drug trade has gone away. Just a sample of drug related activity here. Federal policy for a long time now is to not report Human trafficking numbers.

BP agents seize $360k worth of marijuana
By Brent Corrado. CREATED 2:58 PM

SONOITA, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - Border Patrol agents seized over 700 pounds of marijuana at the Sonoita station on Monday morning.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, two vehicles were seized at the station and three suspected smugglers were arrested. Agents initially responded to reports of suspicious activity near Elgin.

After investigating two vehicles, bundles of marijuana were discovered underneath plywood and debris in the two truck's beds. The three suspects, one a U.S. citizen and two Mexican nationals, were arrested after trying to flee the scene.


San Luis CBP officers seize $453K in hard drugs
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers assigned to the San Luis Port of Entry seized more than 132 pounds of methamphetamine and heroin in the past several days.
Posted: Tuesday, December 16, 2014 9:22 pm
Posted on Dec 16, 2014by Amy Crawford

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers assigned to the U.S. Port of Entry at San Luis seized more than 132 pounds of methamphetamine and heroin in the past several days.
On Saturday, customs officers arrested Miguel Anjel Lugo-Sanchez, a 56-year-old Mexican national living legally in Somerton after a canine alerted to more than $157,000 worth of meth and $71,000 worth of heroin hidden throughout a smuggling vehicle.
Customs officers also arrested Cesar Linarez-Pimental, a 43-year-old Mexican national on Friday after a canine alerted to the tailgate of his truck, where 30 packages of meth — more than 31 pounds — valued at just over $94,000, were found.
On Thursday, customs officers referred Janet Esmeralda Soria-Caravantes, 24, of San Luis Rio Colorado, Son., for further inspection of her Honda SUV.
After a CBP narcotics detection canine alerted to the presence of drugs beneath the back seats, officers removed 14 packages of meth weighing more than 22 pounds and worth nearly $68,000.
Earlier that same day, customs officers arrested Abraham Ruvalcaba-Zepeda, 21, of San Luis Rio Colorado, Son., after a service canine alerted officers to nearly 21 pounds of meth, worth almost $63,000, under the rear seats of a sedan he was driving.
Officers seized all drugs and vehicles involved, and turned the subjects over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations.


Note: much more, especially heroin seems to have made it through.

PGR destroys more than 22 tons of drugs
Details Published on Wednesday December 17, 2014,
Written by Staff / El Diario de Sonora


The federal agency announced it was in six municipalities in the state.
The Attorney General's Office (PGR) through its delegation in the state of Sonora, incinerated during the first half of December, 22 tons, 108 kilos, 657 grams and 300 milligrams of narcotics in the municipalities of Cajeme, Hermosillo, Sonoyta, Nogales, Agua Prieta and San Luis Rio Colorado.

The cremated included: 22 tons, 3 kilos, 802 grams and 100 milligrams of marijuana; 70 kilos, 600 grams and 90 milligrams of methamphetamine; five kilos, and 50 grams of heroin; 11 kilos, 828 grams and 700 milligrams of cocaine; 13 kilos, 50 grams, and 900 milligrams of marijuana seeds and 4 liters, and 880 milliliters of liquid methamphetamine.

Such quantities of drugs are related to 98 preliminary inquiries initiated by drug crimes in its various forms.
All events of incineration were performed in the presence of civilians and military personnel authorities of the State Delegation of the PGR, the Criminal Investigation Agency (AIC) and representatives of Internal Control of the Institution, who testified to the authenticity and weight substances destroyed.

Thus, the PGR reiterates its commitment to fight federal crimes with all the resources that provides the law and urges the public to report 24 hours 365 days a year to your Complaint Center and Citizens Service (CEDAC): 01 800 00 85 400 or email:


Note: Might want to read this one a couple times.

Drivers rarely charged in large pot busts
Bundles of confiscated marijuana stand on display at the Mariposa Port of Entry on Nov. 19, 2013 during a U.S. Customs and Border Protection press conference to announce a record-setting, 20,000-pound marijuana seizure. The bust was notable not only for its size, but also for the fact that the driver of the truck carrying the load was prosecuted and convicted.

Posted: Tuesday, December 16, 2014 7:54 am | Updated: 9:45 am, Tue Dec 16, 2014.
By Murphy Woodhouse
Nogales International

On Nov. 5, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Mariposa Port of Entry discovered nearly 6,000 pounds of marijuana in a northbound shipment of optical fiber. At the time, it was the seventh bust valued at more than a $1 million at the port since Jan. 1, and was followed shortly by an eighth on Nov. 17.
"Officers seized the vehicle and drugs, and referred the (truck driver) to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations," a CBP news release said.

In an email response to an NI reporter a week after the incident, an ICE spokeswoman said that "(t)he driver of the vehicle was not prosecuted, and the incident is part of a larger ongoing HSI investigation."

When it comes to busts at the Mariposa Commercial Facility, this course of events – a large load being discovered in a truck, the driver being referred to local HSI agents, no charges being filed against the driver, and a larger investigation opening up – is common, said Eric Balliet, the assistant special agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Nogales.
"Between one out of four and one out of five," Balliet said was the likely ratio of drivers who end up being charged with drug trafficking crimes. "It's more of the exception than the norm."

HSI is the investigative arm of ICE, and has the "authority to investigate all types of cross-border criminal activity," including drug, weapons and human smuggling and transnational financial crimes, according to ICE's website.

Despite the scale of the alleged criminal violations, many large-load drivers aren't charged for a simple reason: most likely didn't know they were hauling illicit commodities and were what is known as a "blind mule," Balliet said. This determination is made after an intensive interview with arrestees conducted by both CBP port officers and HSI agents, he said.

"A lot of the time, on the cargo loads, there really is what we call a 'no knowledge case,' where there may be, and in likelihood there are, individuals that are employees of the company, either on the U.S. side or the Mexican side, that actually facilitate the loading of the dope," Balliet said. "But the people that actually cross the dope, physically cross it across the U.S.-Mexico border, are not complicit in that activity."

The prevalence of "no-knowledge" cases has a lot to do with the nature of the trucking business in Ambos Nogales, where many loads are crossed by truckers who did not bring the trailers of produce or manufactured goods to the border from their origin, according to Humberto Castro Rivera, a longtime area trucker and transport business owner.

Castro, who said he has worked in the business for 25 years and now owns the small trucking business Centralink, estimated that well more than half of truck loads currently crossing the border with narcotics hidden inside are hauled by such drivers, known locally as "cruzadores," or crossers. Like Balliet, Castro said that the vast majority of those caught are unknowing participants.
"I can't say it's 100 percent. Some do know. But it's nearly 80 percent that don't know," he said.
To avoid the fate of being caught with drugs he didn't know were in his load, Castro said, he and his employees take a number of precautions before accepting other drivers' shipments, including getting the name of the owner and checking out the trailer. He also said he has participated in CBP programs to learn about what potentially suspicious things to look for.
Even with these steps and the many years he's had in the business, each load, to a degree, is still a roll of the dice.
"I try to do the best I can, but the truth is I always have that risk," he said.

Adding to the anxiety is the fact that a driver's crossing documents can still be taken away even if investigators determine that he or she was likely not complicit, something that Castro says has happened to local drivers. Without a visa, decent employment opportunities for truckers in the border region can be scarce.
Balliet agreed.
"It's my assessment that the majority of the 'cruzadores' are actually not involved in the drug trade. They make an honest living, they work hard," he said. "Essentially their border-crossing card is their ability to cross goods back and forth, both northbound and southbound. It's essentially their livelihood."

CBP declined to respond directly to an inquiry regarding the practice of taking crossing privileges away from drivers who are never charged with a crime. Santa Cruz County Attorney George Silva, whose office prosecutes cross-border smuggling cases, confirmed that "it does happen."

Larger probes
Just because a driver isn't charged doesn't mean that the case stops there, Balliet said. In fact, such busts normally lead to significant, long-term investigations.
"The 5,000 pounds of weed got into the trailer somehow and it was going somewhere. That's what our investigator are attuned to. And again, putting all cards face up, it does take a tremendous amount of gumshoe work to backtrack where the load originated from, the company, the customs broker, the warehouse, is it bonded, is it not bonded, does it have a close connection to a local warehouse in Nogales, or in Phoenix, Los Angeles, wherever," Balliet said. "Those are all things that the investigators take a look at."

However, Balliet said, he couldn't provide the precise frequency with which those investigations result in charges without "completely speculating."

Charges in every case is "an unrealistic expectation," he said, though he added that large drug loads are "really where we're going to focus our efforts," rather than on smaller cases like a "40-pound weed load in a gas tank."

With the recent expansion of the Mariposa Port of Entry, commercial truck travel will likely increase over the coming years, which will also make the task of CBP officers and HSI investigators more challenging, Balliet said. In anticipation of this increase, HSI has increased its collaboration with CBP by recently forming what Balliet called the Joint Port Enforcement Group, one of the primary goals of which is to make enforcement "more efficient and effective... while still facilitating and encouraging legitimate trade."

"If you've got 400 trucks coming through, how are you going to find the one with the 4,000 pounds (of narcotics) without bringing to a screeching halt all the legitimate trade going on?" he added.

Charges versus conviction
While most drivers found with thousands of pounds of drugs in their cargo will never face charges, some do. Even so, charges do not guarantee conviction.
On Jan. 22, Mexican national Cuauhtemoc Lopez-Cabrera was arrested at the Mariposa port after CBP officers found roughly 7,400 pounds of marijuana in the truck he was driving. After being read his Miranda Rights, Lopez-Cabrera "admitted to transporting the narcotics in the tractor-trailer he was hauling northbound," according to a subsequent criminal complaint filed at U.S. District Court in Tucson.

Despite the alleged confession, the U.S. Attorney's Office filed a motion to dismiss the charges in February, which was granted by a magistrate judge several days later. According to Cosme Lopez, a Department of Justice spokesman, prosecutors eventually decided that they could not mount a strong enough case to bring a conviction.
"There are times, and this is one of them, that we just can't prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt," Lopez said. "And they're not going to put anybody out there if we can't prove the case."
When asked why having a legally obtained confession was not enough to mount a strong case, Lopez said that "sometimes these cases are kind of weird, if you will."

In November 2013, Mexican national Pedro Corona-Moreno allegedly confessed to having known he was transporting a record-setting 20,000-pound marijuana load busted at the Mariposa port, though said he had done it only after his family was threatened. The U.S. Attorney's Office filed charges and Corona-Moreno pleaded guilty in May to one count of possession with intent to distribute 50 or more kilograms of marijuana, a Class C felony.
In September. he was sentenced to 60 months in prison, with credit for time served.
(Additional reporting by Curt Prendergast.)



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