San Luis, Ariz. - A Yuma woman with "trusted traveler" status was arrested Wednesday for attempting to smuggle more than $141,000 worth (15.5 pounds) of cocaine into the United States.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Port of San Luis arrested and revoked the Secure Electronic Network for Traveler's Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) membership of Maria Valle, 46, after officers found six packages of cocaine in her vehicle.
When Valle applied for entry into the U.S., driving a Mazda sedan, a narcotic detection dog alerted to the presence of drugs. Officers then conducted a secondary inspection and found cocaine packages in Valle's purse.
Valle, her vehicle, and the cocaine were transferred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations.
"SENTRI members are treated with a higher level of trust, but are not exempt from inspection." said Acting Port Director Robert L. Schroeder. "Violations such as drug smuggling will not be tolerated and those attempting to exploit the program will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
SENTRI, part of a trusted-traveler program, allows members access to a dedicated commuter lane that expedites the inspection process for low-risk travelers. Qualification for the program requires an extensive background check and in-person interview.
Individuals arrested may be charged by complaint, the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity, which raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent unless and until competent evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
CBP officers working Arizona's ports of entry are assigned to Tucson's Office of Field Operations and are responsible for securing the nation's borders. Although their primary mission is anti-terrorism, they must screen all people, vehicles and goods entering the U.S. while facilitating the flow of legitimate trade and travel. Their mission also includes carrying out traditional border-related duties such as narcotics interdiction; enforcing immigration law; protecting the nation's food supply and agriculture industry from pests and diseases; and enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.