El Paso, Texas -- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers working at the El Paso port of entry made two large marijuana seizures in the last two days. CBP officers seized 1,180 pounds of marijuana in the two enforcement actions. The estimated street value of the seized contraband is $944,000.
“These were both sizeable drug shipments with considerable effort being put into the concealment,” said Hector Mancha, CBP El Paso Port Director. “CBP employed various enforcement tools at our disposal to identify and stop these drug loads.”
The larger seizure was initiated at approximately 6:00 p.m. May 23 when a 1999 Freightliner towing a flatbed trailer loaded with used tractors entered the Bridge of the Americas cargo compound. A CBP officer at the primary inspection booth selected the shipment for a thorough exam and directed the driver to an x-ray unit. CBP officers were performing a sweep of vehicles waiting in the x-ray line when CBP canine “Rico” alerted to the conveyance. The shipment was then x-rayed revealing anomalies in the appearance of the shipment. CBP officers continued their exam and discovered marijuana-filled metal boxes concealed in the differential units of each of the six tractors. CBP officers seized 12 bundles of marijuana weighing 680 pounds. No arrests were made and the investigation continues.
The second large seizure was made at approximately 5:20 p.m. May 24 when a 2003 Chevrolet 3500 flatbed pickup entered the Ysleta port of entry. CBP officers and Border Patrol agents were performing a sweep of vehicles in line when CBP drug sniffing dog “Cesar” alerted to the truck. A Border Patrol agent searched the truck and spotted an anomaly in the appearance of the vehicle. CBP officers drilled into the suspect area and extracted a green substance which tested positive for marijuana. CBP officers and Border Patrol agents removed a total of 232 bundles from a non-factory compartment. The drugs weighed 500 pounds.
CBP officers took custody of the driver, 44-year-old Jose Refugio Mendez of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement HSI special agents arrested the suspect and booked him into the El Paso County Jail where he is currently detained without bond on federal smuggling charges.
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 official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.