EDINBURG, Texas— U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations agents, disrupted an aviation smuggling attempt at the Edinburg International Airport. At approximately 12:30 p.m., agents encountered an aviation smuggling attempt in progress via private aircraft. Air interdiction agents interdicted the aircraft and performed a pilot document and immigration inspection. The inspection determined the two U.S. Citizen Pilots were attempting to fly 3 undocumented aliens. This led to the arrest of five individuals and the seizure of one Beechcraft King Air 200, twin engine Airplane.
This was the second aviation smuggling attempt in one week in the Rio Grande Valley that was disrupted by Air and Marine Operations agents. Individuals traveling via privately owned aircraft, do not have to go through a TSA inspection, or a U.S. Border Patrol check point, making it a very lucrative way to avoid immigration inspection.
“Aviation smuggling in the Rio Grande Valley is nothing new. Part of Air and Marine Operations mission is to interdict these attempts. Circumventing the U.S. Border Patrol check points, and the TSA no fly list, can pose to a national security risk,” said Steve Jones, Supervisory Air Interdiction Agent of the McAllen Air and Marine Branch. “We rely on the general public to alert us to suspicious activity. However, Air and Marine Operations will continue to conduct random, and unpredictable, pilot document and immigration inspections on international and domestic flights via private aircraft,” Jones added.
Air and Marine Operations has the authority to complete pilot document inspections in accordance with FAR 61.3, along with immigration inspections. Charter companies and pilots, flying illegal aliens, can expect criminal charges, along with the seizure of their aircraft under 8 U.S.C 1324 and INA 274(b).