Customs officers find 3,300 pounds of pot in truck from Juarez

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer | 4/30/2008

Customs and Border Protection officers found 3,343 pounds of marijuana worth more than $3 million this week hidden in a compartment of an “empty” sea container being hauled from Mexico into Texas.

The container was being hauled by a 1993 International truck coming from Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, that was reportedly bound for El Paso, TX.

Officers found the drugs while using an X-ray machine to inspect the container, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Officials reported that 270 large packages of marijuana were found behind a false compartment in the container’s front section.

The driver, who was a Mexican resident, wasn’t arrested and instead was returned to Mexico.

Rick Lopez, chief CBP officer in the agency’s El Paso, TX field office, told Land Line that during drug seizures initiated by the CBP, ICE agents investigate the alleged crime and make a recommendation to the region’s federal prosecutor regarding whether sufficient evidence has been presented.

“It does happen, on occasion, that there will not be enough evidence based on the facts obtained at the time,” Lopez said. “When the violator is released, it doesn’t mean we won’t go back after them. We can always revisit this case.”

Investigators did not note a company logo in the seizure report, Lopez said.

El Paso agents made a similar marijuana discovery on April 15, grabbing more than 1,300 pounds of pot from Juarez, which was concealed between wrought iron doors in a truck trailer.

The driver of that truck, Hugo Rodriguez-Villalba, was arrested.

“What a success story for our El Paso CBP officers,” said Arthur Gonzales, acting port director in El Paso. “In the last 15 days our officers made two significant seizures that prevented more than two tons of marijuana from entering the U.S.”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer

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