A Contest of Wits at U.S. Border

A Contest of Wits at U.S. Border
Posted by FoM on January 18, 2000 at 09:09:12 PT
By Pat Flannery, The Arizona Republic Part 3
Source: Arizona Central
Smugglers will do anything, use anyone, to get drugs into the United States. They stitch cash into a cadaver and drive across the border. They hide a load of marijuana under the seat of a car and place a sick old man on top, his intravenous drip by his side. 
They hide drugs on their own kids, or hire poor children off the streets. Kids, they rationalize, won't be punished much if they're caught. The Tactics:They buy hair spray, empty the cans and stuff drugs inside, or they cut open boxes of Tide, empty most of the detergent and replace it with drug cash to send south. They hollow out car doors, the backs of seats and the insides of cushions. They hide pot in removable dashboards, in false pickup truck beds and fake fenders, in tires, around motors and over transmissions. They buy a new Nissan Sentra and weld vacuum-sealed metal containers, each containing 14 pounds of cocaine, to wheel rims. They buy a used Ford Explorer, weld a small fuel container inside the gas tank, then jam the rest of the tank with 50 pounds of cocaine. They build false ceilings into tractor-trailers, false walls into railroad cars and false floors into airplanes. They fly bales of marijuana over the desert and kick them out to allies waiting below. They tunnel under the border and into U.S. homes, hoisting bundles of cocaine to allies waiting above. Even their own bodies are not sacred. Hikers strap 30- to 50-pound bales to their backs and navigate perilous desert and mountain trails into Arizona. They conceal their tracks every way possible, crossing dirt border roads on planks - even pole vaulting across. They hide everything from heroin to anabolic steroids in the hollowed heels of running shoes. They stuff balloons of cocaine into every human orifice - or swallow them, and hope they pass through their bodies before the balloons burst. They tape cash to their torsos and cocaine to their crotches. One man rolled an old tire across the Naco border road and let it flop to the ground in a dusty American trailer court. A Border Patrol agent checking it out could hardly lift the tire. It was stuffed with drugs. But unlike the tire roller, most smugglers are using increasingly sophisticated ways to send hot cargoes over the line, said Jesus Cruz, chief Customs inspector at Nogales' commercial port. And with the increase in border traffic spurred by the North American Free Trade Agreement, "they're even using (legitimate) cargo to hide drugs," Cruz said. The Hiding Spot:Last year, inspectors were suspicious of two tractor diesel engines headed to Michigan for refurbishing. Disassembling the motors, they found the pistons and oil pans missing. Packed tight in their place: a load of cocaine. That kind of creativity is no longer unusual. Inspectors found electrical transformers headed to Fargo, N.D., gutted and refilled with cocaine. On one memorable occasion, Nogales inspectors drilled into a northbound lumber load and found the timber had been hollowed and stuffed with more than 1,000 pounds of cocaine. Customs Inspector Peter Bachelier, an expert on rail smuggling, said traffickers have been known to bury narcotics in the bottoms of U.S.-bound hopper cars loaded with commodities. They've hidden loads in or on brand new Ford Escorts being delivered by rail from Hermosillo to Arizona. Now, every train and its cargo are searched at the border. Yuma police Lt. Doug Lee said it's impossible to profile smugglers because their tactics are so varied. Sometimes, they use old junkers and sometimes brand new cars to drive drugs across the border. The drivers usually know very little about who the drugs came from or where they're going. The system keeps Mexican sources and U.S. warehouses from being discovered if the drugs are busted en route, Lee said. Often, a small load is sent across the border near a big load, with smugglers using it to distract inspectors. The Decoy:On a cool evening last February, Douglas Customs Inspector Jim Power had his dog named Once sniffing for dope haulers. Cars in seven lanes were backed up into Agua Prieta, spewing fumes. It was quiet until a young Hispanic suddenly leaped from a beat-up Mazda near the inspection booth and took off running south. Uniformed men and women swarmed the car, tapping it with density meters, looking underneath with mirrors, reaching behinds seats. They rolled the Mazda aside for a more thorough check as Once moved in, tail wagging. The dog went nuts around the left front bumper, scratching and whining. The hood popped open and a single brick of marijuana rested in plain view behind the headlight. Instead of celebrating, one of the inspectors shouted, "It's a decoy. Stop the lines! Close it down!" Within minutes, scores of cars were backed up and dogs were running up and down the lines. Inspector Clarissa Velasco used a fiber-optic medical scope to peer inside the Mazda's gas tank. Others combed the sedan's interior, finding only a beer can and a key, still in the ignition. That was another tip-off: Most people have a bunch of keys on their chain. A second brick of pot was in the trunk. "This is a throwaway," Velasco said. "I'll betcha a big load of coke went in right ahead of this, and we lost it." Everyone nodded. The Mazda and cannabis were sacrificed by smugglers, written off as a cost of doing business. Soon, traffic was moving again. The inspectors took their posts, waiting for the next load. Published: January 18, 2000Copyright 2000, Arizona CentralRelated Articles:State is Pipeline for Illegal Drugs - 1/17/2000 Losing Drug War - 1/16/2000 
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Comment #3 posted by Scott on January 18, 2000 at 18:08:10 PT:
The War is Over
The question isn't "have we lost the war", it's "when are we going to give up?" Heroin and cocaine prices are at 20 year lows, the drugs of now have higher purity rates then the drugs of then, the people of today want the drugs more then the people of yesterday. America will never be able to fight a war against drugs, because we *like* drugs too much. Government spends $50 billion tax dollars on high tech sensors, helicopters, foot soldiers, prison walls, the court system, interdiction, and helping Colombia, while American citizens spend $57 billion to use these drugs. The only way for drugs to disappear is to lose the market for them, and the only way to lose the market for them is to start shooting drug offenders on sight, but with the way things are going, I wouldn't be surprised if that became an acceptable practice.Scott
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Comment #2 posted by Alexandre Oeming on January 18, 2000 at 13:47:48 PT:
Way to go, Einstein...
>Yuma police Lt. Doug Lee said it's impossible to profile smugglers because their tactics are so varied.Brilliant! So, now what? Do we just not trust anyone? Even Whitney Houston smokes bud! The cops' method for fighting a forest fire is to throw gasoline on it and then blame such methodology anywhere but on themselves and the folks who make the "rules". I never wanted to get it before, but i might just have to add the "Mean People Suck" patch to my jacket. It seems to describe the people running the country and their hired stooges pretty well, yes?
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on January 18, 2000 at 12:50:05 PT
How much longer?
It's great to be the Little Dutch Boy, with a thumb in a single hole in the dike. Such a heartwarming picture of civic virtue. But what happens when 20 holes spring up around you? Hire more Dutch Boys, of course. But what if it's 200 holes? 2 million?There's a point beyond which it is stupid to stand at that dike, no matter how many Dutch Boys you have. All the civic virtue in the world will not stop the inevitable flood. The entire DrugWar has gotten to that point. But the DrugWar Dutch Boys believe in their own propaganda. They've told themselves that they can breathe water for so long they actually believe it.Thanks to NAFTA, there are millions of holes in the dike. It remains to be seen just how long this situation lasts.
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