San Diego - U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers yesterday intercepted two large marijuana loads valued at $319,000, and arrested a member enrolled in the trusted traveler program for commercial truck drivers.
The largest seizure occurred when CBP officers encountered a 31-year-old Tijuana man registered in the FAST program at about 8:30 a.m. as he drove into the Otay Mesa cargo port from Mexico through a FAST designated lane. The processing officer noticed the driver's nervous demeanor and referred him and the 1991 Freightliner tractor-trailer with a shipment of televisions to the port's gamma ray imaging system.
The inspection revealed anomalies within the sleeper area of the cab. Officers found 58 wrapped packages of marijuana weighing 419 pounds hidden underneath the mattress of the cab's sleeping compartment.
The driver, a registered participant in the Free and Secure Trade program, was turned over to the custody of special agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and transported to the Metropolitan Correctional Center to await arraignment in federal district court on drug smuggling charges. CBP seized the conveyance and narcotics.
His participation in the FAST program has been terminated.
The FAST program is a border accord initiative between the United States, Mexico, and Canada designed to ensure security and safety of transborder commercial shipments at cargo ports of entry.
Eligibility for the FAST program requires participants (carriers, drivers, importers and southern border manufacturers) to submit an application, agreement and security profile. The FAST program allows known, low risk commercial cargo shipments to receive expedited border processing at cargo ports.
The second seizure occurred several hours later at 4:30 p.m. at the San Ysidro port of entry when officers with the port's Anti-Terrorism Contraband Enforcement Team targeted a 2000 Jeep Cherokee and driver waiting in line to be inspected. The officers used a density reader on the vehicle's tires and received an abnormal reading, so they escorted the driver and vehicle into the secondary area for further investigation.
The vehicle was processed through the port's x-ray imaging system which revealed anomalies in the tires. Officers subsequently removed 30 wrapped packages, weighing 219 pounds of marijuana from all five tires.
The driver, a 27-year-old man from Ensenada, was arrested and transported to the San Diego County jail. CBP seized the vehicle and marijuana.
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.