SAN DIEGO, CA — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers working at the ports of entry in San Diego and Imperial Valley counties intercepted more than $61 million worth of narcotics over the weekend of August 7th.
The seizure included 668 pounds of methamphetamine hidden in a cactus shipment, almost 15,000 pounds of marijuana in what was supposed to be a shipment of limes, and a spare tire with fentanyl, heroin and methamphetamine hidden inside, according to a press release.
WOW! More than $61 million worth of narcotics seized – vigilance was sure a strong play this weekend. The San Diego Field Office #CBP officers’ interceptions and hard work make us PROUD! Read more here: https://t.co/en74FMvJo9 pic.twitter.com/i3YDlkWAoV
— Director of Field Operations Pete Flores (@DFOSanDiegoCA) August 12, 2020
Pete Flores, Director of Field Operations for CBP in San Diego said in a statement:
“International drug trafficking organizations will use whatever means they can think of to try and move their illicit shipments into the U.S.,”
“CBP officers dedicate their careers to protecting our country by securing the border. For them, these unusual seizures are all in a day’s work.”
METH IN 🌵🌵🌵 SHIPMENT (again)—
For the second time in a week, CBP officers at the Otay Mesa cargo facility found packages of meth hidden in a cactus shipment. Details via @CBPSanDiego ➡️ https://t.co/dXXubO0C8f pic.twitter.com/Qugd9Yg1q2
— CBP (@CBP) August 14, 2020
On Aug. 7, at about 8 a.m., a tractor-trailer arrived at the Otay Mesa cargo facility with a shipment manifested as cactus. CBP officers referred the shipment to be unloaded at the dock for an intensive inspection, according to the press release:
“A CBP canine team screened the shipment, and the dog alerted to a pallet of cactus.
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“CBP officers searched inside the crates of cactus pads (which are often used in nopales, or prickly pear, dishes and drinks) and found packages, wrapped with green tape, hidden inside among the pads.
ICYMI: Border Patrol agents seized over 151lbs of meth from an unusual source: an ultralight aircraft. Agents observed the aircraft flying low on Saturday morning and responded to the area where they found packages of meth. Read more via @CBPElCentro: https://t.co/DtZfbaCfKt pic.twitter.com/LuK22geT6b
— CBP (@CBP) August 12, 2020
“In total, officers found 590 packages, containing about 668 pounds of methamphetamine. The narcotics have an estimated street value of over $1.5 million.”
RESCUED: @CBPElCentro Border Patrol Agents rescued an illegal alien with a broken ankle and an illegal alien from drowning over the weekend in two separate events. Read more: https://t.co/R55UCFRUOd pic.twitter.com/nmcWrLoSYZ
— CBP (@CBP) August 13, 2020
A few hours later, CBP officers sent another tractor-trailer to the dock for further inspection at 6:30 p.m., after discovering anomalies during a scan by an X-ray imaging system:
“CBP officers opened the boxes and found large, tape-wrapped packages inside the many boxes manifested as limes. Officers found 622 large, tape-wrapped packages inside the boxes, containing 14,880 pounds of marijuana. The narcotics have an estimated street value of almost $60 million.”
Despite warnings about the dangers, Laredo #USBP agents stopped another dangerous human smuggling attempt involving a tractor-trailer, which resulted in the apprehension of 63 illegal aliens. Read more: https://t.co/k2n3MqPxVK pic.twitter.com/fWMTk0Lbs1
— CBP (@CBP) August 13, 2020
On Aug. 9, another interception was made at 1 p.m. when a 35-year-old male driving a white Ford F-150 arrived at the Calexico port of entry:
Today, we laid to rest Border Patrol Agent Marco Gonzales. The entire Border Patrol family mourns this loss and we will honor his memory.
— Chief Rodney Scott (@USBPChief) August 13, 2020
“The CBP officer referred the car and driver aside for further inspection. A CBP officer screened the vehicle with the X-ray imaging system and noticed anomalies with the spare tire. A CBP canine team also screened the vehicle, and the canine alerted to the same area.
Listen as a smuggler callously talks about needing additional space to hold more migrants as if they were merchandise.
COVID-19 only adds to the dangers of this situation. It only takes one person with the virus to spread it to many in these conditions. pic.twitter.com/tjrdHeNdKP
— CBP Mark Morgan (@CBPMarkMorgan) August 12, 2020
“CBP officers cut open the spare tire; inside they found one package of fentanyl with a weight of 2.43 pounds, one package of heroin with a weight of 2.56 pounds, and 41 packages of methamphetamine with a weight of 67.20 pounds. The narcotics have an estimated street value of about $125,000. The driver was taken into custody and turned over to HSI for further disposition.”
In all cases, the conveyances were seized.
Earlier this month, we reported that the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol seized almost $1 million, which was smuggled in a car along the Mexico/California border.
Agents from the U.S. Customs and Border patrol were working the area of the Mexico/California border on Aug. 5, when they stopped a vehicle headed south on Interstate 15 in Escondido.
During the traffic stop, a police K-9 conducted a drug sniff of the vehicle and found almost $1 million dollars in U.S. currency during a search of the vehicle.
Agents conducted the traffic stop near the border of Mexico, and came into contact with a Mexican national. Agents spoke to the man to determine if he was legally allowed to be in the country, while they had a police K-9 conduct a sniff of the vehicle.
The K-9 indicated the presence of the odor of drugs coming from within the vehicle so a manual search was then performed. During the search of the Volkswagen Touareg, agents found 65 plastic wrapped bundles of U.S. cash.
The count of the money revealed that there was $967,460 concealed in the gas tank of the vehicle.
The money and vehicle were seized by the agents, and the driver was arrested and turned over to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations.
The investigation into the origins of the cash continues, but it is suspected that it was from an illegal smuggling operation.
We suspected the media wasn’t telling America about what’s really happening at the border. We were right.
Editor note: At the bottom of the article is the exclusive video that our team at Law Enforcement Today created in partnership with our friends at Inforce.
Special thanks to Art Del Cueto for giving a true look at what it takes to defend America… and to Inforce for helping keeping those who serve and protect safe.
Charles Dickens may have said it best in the opening paragraph of his novel A Tale of Two Cities.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
While it was set historically against the French Revolution and contrasted London and Paris, it strikes amazingly true when used to contrast what we are experiencing right here in America, right now.
If Dickens were alive today, he could change the title to A Tale of Two Americas.
The amazing success that we are seeing as a nation under the current administration versus the all-out assault we are facing on our southern border.
Recently, a tour was conducted at that very location. The tour guide was Art Del Cueto, National Vice President of the Border Patrol Council. A segment of this tour and the conversation with our guide can be seen below.
Here is a little about Art’s career.
Art has been with Border Patrol since 2003. His first duty station was Casa Grande, Arizona, where he helped in the effort to establish a new substation at Three Points, Arizona.
Throughout most of his career, he patrolled on the Tohono O’odham reservation, assisting on numerous drug and smuggling cases.
He responds to over 90% of all significant incidents within the Tucson Sector including shootings, accidents, and agent assaults. As an agent who is fluent in Spanish, he routinely leads the questioning of apprehended subjects.
Art has also worked for the National Border Patrol Council for the last ten years. He currently serves as President of Local 2544. Prior to working for Border Patrol, Art worked for a maximum-security state prison in Tucson. Art has lived most of his life in Arizona.
On this particular tour, Agent Del Cueto takes us back even further than his CBP days.
“I grew up in a small town, a border town called Douglas, Arizona. I grew up seeing border patrol do their job,” he said. “I’ve always seen border patrol out here, I’ve always seen law enforcement, and I have always gravitated towards that.”
Art was born in Mexico. His father was an immigrant who came to the US legally.
“My dad always taught us to be grateful to be in this country,” Del Cueto said. “I think that was the foundation that helped me get to where I am constantly at.”
“I grew up on the border, I was born on the border, I was raised on the border, I’ve worked on the border,” he continues. “I know what is happening out here.”
So, what exactly are the types of things he is referring to when he says he knows what is happening?
This week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued the following press release.
The headline reads: Recently Convicted Child Sex Offender Arrested by Border Patrol Agents.
U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested a previously deported child sex offender near Sasabe Thursday afternoon.
Tucson Sector agents patrolling the desert apprehended 22-year-old Alexander Morales-Domingo, a Guatemalan national, around 6 p.m.
Records checks revealed Morales-Domingo was convicted of lewd or lascivious behavior/lewd or lascivious battery – sexual act with a person 12-15 years of age in Collier County, Florida, December 6, 2019. He was sentenced to five years’ probation and ordered removed from the country December 26, 2019.
As a previously deported sex offender, Morales-Domingo faces federal prosecution for criminal immigration violations.
All persons apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol undergo criminal history checks using biometrics to ensure illegal aliens with criminal histories are positively identified.
So, in a matter of 60 days, an illegal immigrant was convicted of sexual misconduct of a minor in Florida, was removed from the country and was subsequently arrested 2,310 miles away, back in the US.
This case is just one of a thousand stories we could tell about the struggle at our border to keep our citizenry safe.
But it strikes at the heart of what Del Cueto sees every day.
Continuing his tour, he said that they have better structure where he is than a lot of other areas have.
Pointing to the 15’ tall fence and the razor wire, he said that the wire was added when President Trump stepped up and dedicated resources to better secure our border.
Del Cueto said that a common occurrence was seeing groups who would come up to the fence and weld small pieces of metal to the south side of the fence and make a ladder. Then they would just repel down.
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“What I want people to understand is, it’s not just a bunch of dumb farmers over there (pointing across the border towards Mexico) doing this,” said the veteran agent. “They are very organized. It is a very organized criminal organization.”
He pointed to one of the major flaws in our current immigration system.
You can be a convicted criminal in your own country, guilty of heinous crimes, but if you have never been to the U.S. and committed a crime, you come here, CBP will run you through the system and your record shows clean, not knowing what crimes you may have committed in your own country or others.
“We have people renting their kids out in Mexico, because they know that exposes a loophole in immigration,” stated a frustrated Del Cueto. “You cannot detain these children for more than 20 days. Then the child goes back to Mexico, where they will rent them out again.”
“This area has been notorious for drugs coming into the country for as long as I can remember.”
He called these smugglers (both humans and drugs) extremely sophisticated, pointing to the types of technology that they use.
Two examples: they have night vision, and they set up communications via towers and even underground telephone trunk cables for long range capabilities.
Describing the depths of the problem at our border, he recounted one particular experience.
“I specifically can tell you, that I have seen the same guy, a Mexican national, during the last administration (Barack Obama), deported 17 times.”
Based on the latest figures we could find, the average cost of detention for one individual was $5,633 and the average cost of deportation was $10,854. Using those numbers, it cost U.S. taxpayers $280,000. That is just one guy.
In Fiscal Year 2016, ICE and CBP spent $3.2 billion to identify, arrest, detain and deport undocumented and criminal aliens.
Stepping aside from the human aspect of the southern border, Del Cueto pointed to another problem. Sewage pipes on the Mexican side of the border burst. It was spilling raw human sewage at a rate of up to 40,000 gallons a day at some points.
The ranchers in the area rely on well water for their crops and livestock. The sewage was seeping into the ground and contaminating wells.
How was that addressed? Chlorine tablets. Someone threw chlorine tablets into 40,000 gallons of raw sewage.
LET carried a story dedicated to this issue, which you can read here.
Now back to the people.
“When you are patrolling in the day, your vision is a lot better,” Del Cueto told us. “At night, it is more difficult, and you count on equipment to help you patrol this area.”
Continuing, he said:
“I can’t call for back up and say I am at 5th street and 6th Avenue. You’re in the middle of nowhere.”
Hearing the inflection in Del Cueto’s voice at this point helps you understand just how dire the situation often is for the agents tasked with securing our borders.
The area he works holds the record for number of illegal immigrants apprehended in one year.
“The largest group I ever encountered alone was 80 people,” he said. “You have to wait for backup. You have to wait for transport.”
One of the issues he touched on was the difficulty that CBP has in getting agents.
“One of the issues that we fell into was that border patrol agents received a pay cut, no other individuals in CBP did.”
He pointed at the remote locations and the long hours as other deterrents to the recruiting effort.
Del Cueto is not shy in addressing what it will take.
“We need more politicians that are behind us. We need more media that is willing to tell the story. And, we need more managers in our own agency that are willing to be leaders and lead from the front.”
Winding down the tour and the conversation, Del Cueto gave us insight as to why he fights this battle and why it is important.
“I know America is not perfect. I don’t think anyone is going to tell you it is. But it is better than anything else, and we need to preserve that. This is the only country that has individuals constantly wanting to ‘break in’ you could say, not be detected and remain here.
If we open our borders, if we lower our vetting process, then is America going to be as great as it has always been, or are we diminishing it?”
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