(Wednesday, December 22, 2010)
Nogales, Ariz. — In less than an hour Tuesday, CBP officers working at the Port of Nogales, Ariz. stopped an attempt at smuggling $756,000 in heroin and cocaine into the United States as well as preventing more than $120,000 undeclared cash from leaving the country.
“Every day, our officers screen thousands of people, vehicles, and goods coming into and going out of the country, looking violations of law,” said Port Director Guadalupe Ramirez, “and these seizures demonstrate exactly why they do this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
The drug seizure started at around 5 p.m. Dec. 21, when officers screening incoming people and vehicles stopped the driver of a tractor-trailer with a load of tomatoes. The officers screened the vehicle with an x-ray system and noticed some anomalies with the images so they called in a narcotics detection dog to assist with the inspection. After the dog alerted to narcotics odor coming from the tractor, the officers conducted an inspection and found four fire extinguishers hidden under the sleeper section of the cab.
When they examined the extinguishers, they found that three of the extinguishers contained cocaine and the fourth held heroin. The officers seized four and a half pounds of heroin and 12 pounds of cocaine, worth a combined estimated street value of $756,000.
The driver, a 61-year-old man from Mexico, was arrested and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for further investigation into the smuggling attempt and possible prosecution.
The currency seizure started shortly after the drug seizure, at around 5:40 p.m., when officers screening vehicles heading out of the country stopped the driver and passenger of a Mitsubishi Endeavor. While officers were questioning the driver about goods being exported from the United States, they decided to conduct an inspection of the vehicle. During the inspection, they found a shoebox containing more than $120,000 that the driver and passenger failed to tell the officers about, in violation of currency reporting requirements. The officers seized the currency and the vehicle.
The driver, a 24-year-old woman from Phoenix, was arrested and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement into the failed currency smuggling attempt and possible prosecution. The passenger, a juvenile, was released to family members.
While anti-terrorism is the primary mission of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the inspection process at the ports of entry associated with this mission results in impressive numbers of enforcement actions in all categories.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.