A Mexican national was arrested Saturday afternoon after he tried smuggling 310 pounds of marijuana into the United States through a port of entry in El Paso, officials said.
The drugs, which have an estimated street value of $248,000, were allegedly hidden in the bed, rear wall and door of the man’s pickup.
Customs and Border Protection officers said they seized the drugs from the driver of the 2000 GMC Sierra, who crossed the Paso del Norte international bridge from Mexico. A CBP officer said he noticed something wrong with the back wall of the pick-up and sent the truck to a second inspection.
El Paso Customs and Border Protection Chief Ruben Jauregui said the officers are trained to use interview and observation techniques to recognize when something is suspicious.
“They’re pretty knowledgeable on what the normal compartments of the vehicles are, so when there is a modification the officer can see it,” said Jauregui. “In this case there was a modification to the rear wall of the cab itself and in the bed of the truck -- so that brought some suspicion to the officer.”
An X-ray machine showed there was something suspicious in the car, and a drug sniffing canine alerted officers to the presence of drugs, authorities said. CBP officers continued their search and found bundles of marijuana.
“This smuggler used almost every square inch of space he could in an attempt to transport a large drug load into the country,” Beverly Good, CBP’s El Paso Port Director said in a statement. “The thorough inspections CBP officers perform prevented this load from reaching its final destination.”
CBP officers at ports of entry use a multi-layered inspection process to catch smugglers. First, a canine will walk around cars, then, drivers will be interviewed by officers while they show them their passport or immigration documents, and, if necessary, officers will go into an in-depth inspection using X-ray machines and canines to check every nook and cranny of the vehicle.
The inspection process is not just for drugs; officers also check agricultural cargo and items as simple as groceries.
The alleged smuggler in El Paso was turned over to ICE and is charged with importation of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.