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Tag: Mexico

CBP Seizes $4.3M Worth of Meth from Shipment of Cucumber Pickles

CBP found 217 pounds of meth in a shipment of pickles. Photo: CBP

By Steve Neavling

CBP officers found $4.3 million worth of methamphetamine in a shipment of cucumber pickles being hauled into Texas from Mexico. 

Officers assigned to the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge cargo facility seized 114 packages of meth weighing 217 pounds from a tractor-trailer last week. 

The discovered the package after conducting a non-intrusive imagine (NII) system inspection. 

“This substantial quantity of hard narcotics will not make its final destination in the United States,” said Port Director Carlos Rodriguez, Port of Hidalgo/Pharr/Anzalduas. “This interdiction reinforces our officers’ role in advancing CBP’s border security mission by preventing dangerous drugs from entering and negatively impacting our communities.”

The case was turned over to Homeland Security Investigations. 

HSI Returns Nearly 300 Pre-Columbia Artifacts to Mexican Officials

One of the recovered artifacts. Photo courtesy of Homeland Security.

By Steve Neavling

Homeland Security Investigations returned nearly 300 pre-Columbia artifacts to Mexican officials this week during a repatriation ceremony at the Mexican Consulate in Nogales. 

The 277 pieces included arrow heads, axe heads, hammer heads, spear heads and small stone carvings that were between 1,000 and 5,000 years old and “of significant cultural value,” HSI said in a news release.

The repatriation follows two separate HSI investigations by special agents in Phoenix and Nogales. 

Scott Brown, special agent in charge of HSI Phoenix, presented the relics to Ricardo Santana, Mexican consul general ambassador in Nogales, and Jose Luis Perea, director of the Mexican Institute for Anthropology and History (INAH) in Sonora.

“The cultural significance of artifacts from regions around the world extends beyond any monetary value,” Brown said. “The pieces, like those discovered, are fragments of history; and it is an honor to return them to their rightful home country. HSI fully supports the importance of antiquities and cultural property, and it is through these repatriations that new generations are able to experience a part of their nation’s story.”

Perara said the timing was culturaly significant. 

“This repatriation comes at an opportune time, in the year of a very significant commemoration for Mexico – the 500th anniversary of the taking of Tenochtitlan, which was a heartrending encounter between the cultural universes of Western Europe and America,” Perea said. “This event allows us to deeply recognize the pre-Hispanic cultures of Mexico, as well as the resistance and presence of its contemporary indigenous peoples.”

HSI conducts investigations for the Department of Homeland Security. Among its roles is investigating thefts of cultural property. 

Wife of ‘El Chapo’ Arrested on Drug Trafficking Charges, Helping Husband Escape from Prison

‘El Chapo’ Guzman

By Steve Neavling

The wife of convicted drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was arrested Tuesday on charges of helping her husband run his cartel and aiding his 2015 escape from a Mexican prison. 

Emma Coronel Aispuro, a 31-year-old former beauty queen, is expected to appear in federal court in Washington D.C. on Tuesday after she was arrested at Dulles International Airport in Virginia as part of at least a two year investigation. 

Guzman, the longtime head of the Sinaloa drug cartel, was convicted in 2019 on drug conspiracy charges and sentenced to life in prison. 

According to court documents, Coronel helped Guzman ship drugs and evade capture and later was the main conspirator in the successful plot to break him out of the Altiplano prison in Mexico.  

Coronel’s lawyer wouldn’t comment on the arrest. 

Barr Struck Deal with Mexico to Release Ex-Defense Minister for Senior Cartel Leader

Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, former Mexican defense minister.

By Steve Neavling

Mexican authorities agreed to arrest a senior cartel leader in exchange for Attorney General William Barr dismissing drug trafficking charges against former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda.

The deal, first reported by Reuters, sheds more light on an unusual decision that drew criticism from some in Congress and the State Department, as well as former DEA agents.

“Mexico committed to collaborate with the United States in the capture of a primary objective,” a source told Reuters

Daniel Millan, spokesman for Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, responded, “what we agreed was to maintain a united front against crime and cooperation that respects the sovereignty of each country.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman denied both countries had a deal. 

Last week, multiple news outlets reported that Mexican officials were so incensed with the arrest of Cienfuegos that they threaten to remove the DEA from the country.

The unidentified cartel leader is suspected of trafficking large quantities of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that kills tens of thousands of Americans a year. 

Mexico Threatens to Remove DEA from Country After Arrest of Ex-Mexican Defense Minister

Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, former Mexican defense minister.

By Steve Neavling

Mexican officials are so incensed with the arrest of a former Mexican defense minister on drug trafficking charges that they’ve threatened to remove the DEA from the country, The New York Times and Bloomberg report. 

The unprecedented threat follows the arrest of Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda. 

U.S. officials appeared to be listening, and on Wednesday a federal judge agreed to dismiss the charges against the former army general. The move came at the request of Attorney General William Barr. 

The reversal was criticized by officials in the State Department and Congress. 

“There is no explanation for Attorney General Barr’s decision to abruptly drop drug trafficking charges against General Cienfuegos,” Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said in a statement. “Cooperation with the Mexican government is essential for upholding our national security, and those bilateral ties must be built on common respect for our own rule of law and due process.”

Judge Carol B. Amon, of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, appeared to have no qualms about the turnabout.  

“Although these are very serious charges against a very significant figure, and the old adage ‘a bird in the hand’ comes to mind,” Amon said, “still I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of the government’s decision.”

Border Patrol Makes Second-Largest Meth Bust Along Southwest Border

More than 3,100 pounds of meth were seized at the Otay Mesa Port Entry in San Diego.

By Steve Neavling

CBP officers made the second-largest methamphetamine bust ever along the Southwest border, seizing more than 3,100 pounds of the drug, along with 64 pounds heroin, 29 pounds of fentanyl powder and 37 pounds of pills. 

The drugs were found in a tractor-trailer on Oct. 9 at the Otay Mesa Port Entry in San Diego. 

A CBP officer ordered the driver of the truck to pull over for an inspection. Using the port’s imaging system, which is similar to an x-ray, CBP officers grew suspicious and sent the conveyance to a dock, where a canine alerted authorities to boxes inside the trailer. 

The drugs were co-mingled with medical supplies. 

The estimated value of the drugs is $7.2 million, CBP said.  

“Smugglers will try every way possible to try and get their product across the border and because of the partnership between CBP, Homeland Security investigations and DEA this significant seizure occurred and we stopped them,” Anne Maricich, acting CBP director of field operations in San Diego, said in a statement. “I’m proud of the CBP officers’ dedication to our mission; they continue to stop dangerous drugs from entering our communities.”

The driver, a 47-year-old Mexican resident, was arrested and turned over to ICE, Homeland Security Investigations and the DEA for further investigation. 

“This massive seizure is testament of what law enforcement agencies can do when we combine forces – prevent over $7 million worth of deadly drugs from entering our country; thus saving countless lives from addiction and overdose deaths,” DEA Special Agent in Charge John W. Callery said. “DEA cherishes our great law enforcement partners in San Diego, especially those who work tirelessly to protect our nation’s borders.  We will continue to work together to disrupt drug trafficking organizations at every opportunity we are given.” 

Inside the truck where 3,100 pounds of meth were found.

Feds Find ‘Most Sophisticated Tunnel in U.S. History’ at Border with Mexico

Inside the unfinished tunnel, via ICE.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The discovery shocked federal agents: An unfinished tunnel that ran from San Louis, Ariz., to a Mexican neighborhood featured a ventilation system, electrical wiring, water lines, a rail system and extensive reinforcement.

“This appears to be the most sophisticated tunnel in U.S. history, and certainly the most sophisticated I’ve seen in my career,” Carl E. Landrum, acting chief patrol agent with the Border Patrol’s Yuma sector, said, The Associated Press reports.

Discovered by Homeland Security Investigations in late July, officials believe it was intended for smuggling.

The tunnel was 3 feet wide and 4 feet high.

Excavation work on the tunnel, via ICE.

Car Crash That Killed 7 People in El Paso Was Involved in Human Smuggling

Border marker at San Ysidro Port of Entry, via Border Patrol.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The car crash that killed seven people in downtown El Paso on Thursday was involved in human smuggling.

The car was fleeing Border Patrol agents when it crashed into a trailer at 2:15 a.m.

Among those killed were at least three undocumented immigrants who were being smuggled into the U.S. and four El Paso residents, including the 18-year-old driver The Daily Mail reports.

A Mexican man and two unidentified people also were killed.

Among the injured were Mexico native Omar Garcia Hernandez, 18, Guatemalan national Wilbur Gomez, 25, and an unnamed 16-year-old from Mexico.

“All preliminary information collected thus far indicates that it was indeed a human smuggling event,” Chief Patrol Agent of the El Paso Sector Gloria Chavez said in a statement.

A sensor alerted agents to the four-door sedan in Sunland Park, New Mexico, an area near the border that is know for human smuggling.

The driver fled by accelerating at a high rate of speed. Agents called off the chase because of the dangerous speed.

Soon after, the agents spotted the car, which had crashed into a trailer on private property.

“I cannot stress enough how Transnational Criminal Organizations continue to exploit human beings and manipulate the youth in our communities by recruiting them to be their mules and their smugglers,” Chavez said.

“Human smuggling is as lucrative as drug smuggling, if not more, and our youth are being targeted.”